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Boeing successfully completed this week the first test flight of an electric autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV) prototype to test the autonomous functions and ground control systems.
Boeing NeXt, the division leading the company’s urban air mobility plans, designed and developed the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft with the help of Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences.
The prototype is powered by an electric propulsion system and is designed for fully autonomous flight from takeoff to landing, with a range of up to 50 miles (80.47 kilometers).
Boeing NeXt will proceed with more tests of the prototype “to advance the safety and reliability of on-demand autonomous air transportation,” Boeing said in a statement.
The first flight of the prototype was a controlled takeoff, hover, and landing, while future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight, as well as the transition phase between vertical and forward-flight modes.
According to Boeing, the transition phase between vertical and forward-flight modes is generally viewed as the biggest challenge for engineers building any high-speed VTOL aircraft.
“In one year, we have progressed from a conceptual design to a flying prototype,” Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop said.
“This is what revolution looks like, and it’s because of autonomy,” John Langford, president and chief executive officer of Aurora Flight Sciences, said in Boeing’s press release.
“Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible,” Langford noted.
Boeing NeXt is working 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,” the company said.
Boeing is not the only aerospace company testing PAV prototypes. Last year, Airbus said that its all-electric, self-piloted, VTOL aircraft Vahana had successfully completed its first full-scale flight test of 53 seconds, reaching a height of 5 meters (16 feet) before descending safely.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.