Boeing has completed the first test flight of its autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV) prototype, which the company hopes will revolutionise passenger services worldwide.
The test flight, in Manassas, Virginia, was completed on January 22, with the PAV completing a controlled takeoff, hover and landing during the flight.
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 vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft.
Boeing NeXt, which leads the company’s urban air mobility efforts, used Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to design and develop the electric VTOL aircraft and will continue testing to advance the safety and reliability of on-demand autonomous air transportation.
Boeing chief technology officer Greg Hyslop said in one year, the company has progressed from a conceptual design to a flying prototype.
Powered by an electric propulsion system, the PAV prototype is designed for fully autonomous flight from takeoff to landing, with a range of up to 80.47km.
Measuring 9.14mlong and 8.53m wide, its advanced airframe integrates the propulsion and wing systems to achieve efficient hover and forward flight.
Aurora Flight Sciences CEO John Langford said this is what revolution looks like and it’s because of autonomy.
“Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible,” he said.
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.
In addition to the PAV, the Boeing NeXt portfolio includes an unmanned fully electric cargo air vehicle (CAV) designed to transport up to 226.80km and other urban, regional and global mobility platforms.
The CAV completed its first indoor flight last year and will transition to outdoor flight testing in 2019.