Boeing today announced it has successfully completed the first test flight of its autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV) prototype in Manassas, Va.
The prototype, an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, was developed by Boeing NeXt and Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences. The groups said they will continue testing to “advance the safety and reliability of on-demand autonomous air transportation.
During the test, the PAV prototype was able to takeoff, hover, and land during the flight, with the companies testing the vehicle’s autonomous functions and ground control systems. Boeing said future flights will test “forward, wing-borne flight, as well as the transition phase between vertical and forward-flight modes,” which it says 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 Greg Hyslop, chief technology officer at Boeing. “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.”
Short distances initially
The PAV prototype is powered by an electric propulsion system, and is designed for fully autonomous flight with a range of up to 50 miles (80.47 kilometers). The vehicle measures 30 feet long and 28 feet wide, with an advanced airframe that integrates the propulsion and wing systems to achieve efficient hover and forward flight, Boeing said.
“This is what revolution looks like, and it’s because of autonomy,” said John Langford, president and CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences. “Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible.”
The Boeing NeXt division is working with regulatory agencies and industry partners to bring a “new mobility ecosystem and ensure a future where autonomous and piloted air vehicles safely coexist.” In addition to the PAV, Boeing NeXt has an unmanned electric cargo air vehicle (CAV) designed to transport up to 500 pounds of materials, as well as other urban, regional, and global mobility platforms. Boeing said it completed the first CAV indoor flight last year, and plans to transition to outdoor flight testing this year.