Boeing said yesterday (21 January) it completed the first test flight of its autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV) prototype in Virginia and said the porfolio also includes an unmanned fully electric cargo air vehicle (CAV).
The US aircraft manufacturer said CAV is designed to transport 500 pounds (226.80 kilogrammes) of freight and other urban, regional and global mobility platforms. The CAV completed its first indoor flight last year and will transistion to outdoor flights testing in 2019.
Boeing NeXt, which leads the company’s urban air mobility efforts, utilised Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to design and develop the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and will continue testing to advance the safety and reliability of on-demand autonomous air transportation.
As for the PAV prototype (pictured above), Boeing said it completed a controlled take-off, hover and landing during the flight, which tested the vehicle’s autonomous functions and ground control systems.
Future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight, as well as the transition phase between vertical and forward-flight modes. This transition phase is typically the most significant engineering challenge for any high-speed VTOL aircraft.
“In one year, we have progressed from a conceptual design to a flying prototype,” said Boeing chief technology officer, Greg Hyslop. “Boeing’s expertise and innovation have been critical in developing aviation as the world’s safest and most efficient form of transportation, and we will continue to lead with a safe, innovative and responsible approach to new mobility solutions.”
Powered by an electric propulsion system, the PAV prototype is designed for fully autonomous flight from take-off to landing, with a range of up to 50 miles (80.47 kilometers). Measuring 30 feet (9.14 meters) long and 28 feet (8.53 meters) wide, its advanced airframe integrates the propulsion and wing systems to achieve efficient hover and forward flight.
The test flight represents the latest milestone for Boeing NeXt. The division works with regulatory agencies and industry partners to lead the responsible introduction of a new mobility ecosystem and ensure a future where autonomous and piloted air vehicles safely coexist.
“Boeing was there when the aviation industry was born and in our second century, we will unlock the potential of the urban air mobility market,” said Steve Nordlund, vice president and general manager of Boeing NeXt. “From building air vehicles to airspace integration, we will usher in a future of safe, low-stress mobility in cities and regions around the world.”