Boeing Co announced on Wednesday the prototype for a flying car the company is developing hovered briefly in the air during its first test flight. The world’s largest maker of planes describes the event as a small but extremely important step in the company’s goal to change both urban transportation and the way parcel items are delivered.
Boeing is attempting to outpace the competition of Airbus SE and others in their bid to become the first company to successfully utilize self-flying vehicles that are able to take off and land vertically.
The project is fueled by recent advancement in autonomous technology. Road congestion is another motivator for the autonomous flying vehicle. Industry insiders say autonomous vehicles may completely transform the aerospace industry over the next decade.
The thirty-foot prototype by Boeing is described as one part drone, part helicopter, and part fixed-wing plane. The prototype elevated to a few feet off the ground on Tuesday before hovering in place for just under a minute. The craft was then able to make a soft and safe landing. The test flight took place at an airport in Manassa, Virginia.
Aurora Flight Sciences is a subsidiary of Boeing. John Langford, President and CEO of Aurora, says the test-flight is exactly what innovation should look like.
Boeing is working in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration and the startup company SparkCognition Inc. to develop a traffic management system for autonomous vehicles.
Boeing purchased Aurora Flight Sciences a year ago in an effort to speed up the development process for autonomous flying vehicles. The company and its subsidiary are also working with Uber Technologies to develop UberAir Service. The flights are scheduled to begin in 2023 and passengers will be able to order services with their smartphones.
The goal for Boeing is to create two vehicle types capable of traveling 50 miles. One vehicle type will be used to transport two passengers and the other will be a four-passenger vehicle.
The main competitors to Boeing in this endeavor are Airbus, Volocopter, and AeroMobil. Each of the companies explains they have made considerable progress of their own with autonomous vehicles intended to transport passengers.
Dennis Muilenburg, chairman, president, and CEO of Boeing says the future of moving people, cargo, and goods is happening right before the eyes of the global community. Muilenburg says much progress can be expected in the field over the next five years.