INTERNATIONAL – An early prototype of Boeing’s self-driving air taxi completed its first flight at an airfield in Manassas, Virginia, last week, marking what could be an early breakthrough in the company’s vision for autonomous, on-demand flight.
The aircraft took off, hovered and landed, using its autonomous navigation and landing systems, according to a release published by the Chicago-based aerospace giant. The test marks an early milestone for Boeing’s Aurora Flight Sciences subsidiary, which it acquired in 2017.
John Langford, president and chief executive of Aurora Flight Sciences said: “Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible.”
The 9.1m plane is designed to let it hover or fly forward for up to 80km.
The vehicle is part of a Boeing research-and-development division called NeXt, which works with technologists and government regulatory agencies to plan the eventual introduction of self-piloting air vehicles. This year, the company plans to test-fly an unmanned cargo plane that is designed to carry up to 226kg.
It’s all part of a broader effort to relieve traffic in congested cities as the company seeks to “usher in a future of safe, low-stress mobility in cities and regions around the world,” Boeing NeXt General Manager Steve Nordlund said.
Boeing is not the only company trying to build self-driving taxis: UPS, Intel Corp. and Airbus have autonomous-flight units.
– The Washington Post