Offering a peek into the future of urban transportation, American aerospace giant Boeing has just finished first test flight of its autonomous prototype of Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) aka ‘Flying Car’ in Manassas, Virginia, on Wednesday.
The company also tested the vehicle’s autonomous functions and ground control systems.
Boeing NeXt, which leads the company’s urban air mobility efforts, has utilized Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing subsidiary, which has designed and developed the Flying car for passenger, which is called as electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft or simply ‘air taxi’. These Air Taxis, according to Boeing, are able to autonomously transport passengers, plan routes, respond to contingencies, and detect and avoid unexpected obstacles.
BREAKING: It’s another first for us. Along with @AuroraFlightSci we’ve successfully tested our passenger air vehicle. We continue our progress towards a safe and sustainable urban mobility ecosystem. #TheFutureIsBuiltHere pic.twitter.com/hwuw4d5jmz
— The Boeing Company (@Boeing) January 23, 2019
Measuring 30 feet long and 28 feet wide, the prototype uses eight rotors to achieve vertical lift and a tail rotor for forward flight. The aircraft is using the electric propulsion system that Aurora originally developed for its X-24A sub scale generator, which used 24-ducted fans to feed AC power from electricity produced by three 1-megawatt generators.
According to Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop, “In one year, we have progressed from a conceptual design to a flying prototype. 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 (80.47 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.
“This is what revolution looks like, and it’s because of autonomy,” said John Langford, president and chief executive officer of Aurora Flight Sciences. “Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible.”
The test flight represents the latest milestone for Boeing NeXt. The division works 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. 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.
“Boeing was there when the aviation industry was born and in our second century, we will unlock the potential of the urban air mobility market,” said Steve Nordlund, vice president and general manager of Boeing NeXt. “From building air vehicles to airspace integration, we will usher in a future of safe, low-stress mobility in cities and regions around the world.”
Besides Boeing, other aircraft manufacturers are also rushing PAV concepts to market. Airbus A³ Vahana is an electric-powered vertical take-off and landing 8-prop flying prototype financed by Airbus SV and Airbus conducted the first successful test flight of its Vahana eVTOL aircraft in January 2018.
Also, a US-based startup called Wright Electric is working on an electric-powered plane that can carry 150 passenger. Backed by seed accelerator Y Combinator, tWright Electric expects that it will be capable of taking a commercial flight in the next 10 years.
Cab hailing firm Uber is also said to be working with 6-7 different vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft and India is one of its potential market for flying taxis especially in cities such as Mumbai where cars can barely move during peak hours. Last year in February, when Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was on India tour he met India’s Minister of State for Civil Aviation and talked about possible partnerships between the Uber and India, including a flying car collaboration.