Boeing has successfully completed the first test flight of its autonomous passenger air vehicle prototype, involving a controlled takeoff, hover and landing.
The flight, in Manassas, Virginia, also tested the vehicle’s autonomous functions and ground control systems as part of plans to “advance the safety and reliability of on-demand autonomous air transportation”.
The test was run by Boeing NeXt, utilising the company’s subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to design and develop the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The project will continue testing with future flights trialling forward, wing-borne flight, as well as the transition phase between vertical and forward-flight modes. The researchers say 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 takeoff to landing, with a range of up to 50 miles (80 km). 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.