Getting from point A to point B could be very different in the coming years. There are myriad self-driving car projects, but Boeing has set its sights higher — a few thousand feet higher. The company has completed the first test flight of its flying taxi, which Boeing calls an autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV). It didn’t fly for long, but it’s still a step in the right direction. Maybe we’ll get those flying cars yet.
The PAV project comes from the Boeing NeXt division, which handles all the firm’s urban air flight projects. NeXt commissioned Being subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to design the aircraft, which is 100 percent electric and capable of vertical takeoffs and landings (VTOL). That’s essential for use in a city as there aren’t runways available on every street corner.
Boeing NeXt says the aircraft has a maximum theoretical range of 50 miles (80 kilometers) before it needs to recharge its batteries. The airframe integrates two different propeller systems. There are four propellers on the frame near the bottom that handle the takeoffs and landings. These also help control the craft’s altitude. The small wings and rear-facing propeller add lift and forward propulsion to the equation.
The demo video is short but slickly produced. Boeing shows the PAV from various angles, and then the big moment arrives. The craft lifts off the runway, hovers in place for a few seconds, and sets back down. While it may look like there’s someone at the controls, that’s just a dummy. The PAV doesn’t even have controls.
The goal, at least theoretically, is to use contraptions like this to ferry people around a city. It needs more landing space than your typical car parking space, but it could be feasible. The PAV is 30 feet (9.1 meters) long and 28 feet (8.5 meters) wide.
Boeing NeXt is engaged with regulators to evaluate the way systems like the PAV could work in the future. Currently, US regulators don’t even allow unmanned aircraft to deliver packages, os carrying people is a long way off. Boeing is looking at cargo transports as well. The cargo air vehicle (CAV) has a similar design, but it can haul as much as 500 pounds (228 kilograms) around an urban area. Boeing plans to start test flights of the CAV later this year.
Boeing and SpaceX Might Not Be Ready for Manned Flights in 2019
According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), neither SpaceX nor Boeing are likely to conduct a manned launch in 2019.
Boeing Crew Capsule Experienced ‘Anomaly’ During Recent Engine Test
Boeing is swearing up and down that everything is fine, but this will almost certainly affect the launch timeline yet again.
Boeing May Be Funding Op-Ed Campaign Attacking SpaceX Across the Country
Someone has been putting op-eds in newspapers across the country targeting SpaceX's commercial crew program, and it looks like Boeing could be the culprit.