Boeing has moved from conceptual design to a flying prototype in just a year.
The aircraft maker completed its first outdoor test of an electric flying autonomous auto that it hopes will one day whisk people away from congested roads and along a highway in the sky.
The company is engaged in competition with Airbus SE and numerous other firms to create a small, self-flying vehicle capable of vertical takeoff and landing for everyday use.
The craft is more broadly part of Boeing’s NeXt program dedicated to urban mobility efforts and was designed by Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences for Uber Air’s flying taxi service which looks to begin ferrying passengers as early as 2023.
These companies and a bunch of others seem determined to have scaled-down aircraft in the air in the not so distant future, acting as short-distance means of transportation for city dwellers.
Boeing is not the only company trying to build self-driving taxis: UPS, Intel Corp. and Airbus also have autonomous-flight units of their own.
“Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible”.
Flying cars may still be the stuff of science fiction, but Boeing is a little closer to bringing one to the masses. At 30 feet long and 28 feet wide, the prototypes airframe design integrates both the propulsion and wing system for improved efficiency.
Propelled by electricity, the model is designed for fully autonomous flight, with a range of as much as 50 miles, Boeing said.
As envisioned by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber Air will have passengers calling for a lift, then heading to rooftop sky ports where the aircraft take off. That one has already completed an indoor test, with outdoor tests to come later this year.
Boeing is working with startup SparkCognition Inc and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to develop a traffic-management system for three-dimensional highways, as well as the regulatory framework that will allow waves of autonomous vehicles to zip safely around buildings, the company has said. Forward wing-borne flight will also be tested.