As part of its NeXt program, which leads the company's urban air mobility efforts, Boeing has completed the first test flight of its autonomous passenger air vehicle or PAV. The prototype completed a controlled takeoff, hover, and landing during the flight, which tested the vehicle's autonomous functions and ground control systems.
According to Boeing, 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.
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 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, said Boeing.
"This is what revolution looks like, and it's because of autonomy," said John Langford, president and chief executive officer of Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences. "Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean, and safe urban air mobility possible." NeXt utilized Aurora Flight Sciences to design and develop the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
In addition to the PAV, the Boeing NeXt portfolio includes an unmanned fully electric cargo air vehicle (CAV) designed to transport up to 500 pounds (226.80 kilograms) 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.
About Mark Miller
Mark Miller is a contributing writer and assistant news editor for SAE International in Warrendale, PA. He has worked as a contributing technology writer and editor for IBM and other advanced information technology firms. His areas of concentration include artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, analytics and Internet of Things technologies.