Aeroplane behemoth Boeing sent its PAV (autonomous passenger air vehicle) into the air earlier this week, and it stuck the landing.
boeing (2 images)
Of course, we've heard it all before. Silicon Valley's Opener revved us up last year with news that their BlackFly would cost no more than an SUV, and will be ready for purchase in 2019. (We can find $30 hats on the site for purchase, but not yet a flying car.) Or there's the Dutch PAL-V, which also claims to drop this year, but will require a pilot's license ... and half a million dollars to bring home.
Something seems a bit more realistic about Boeing's bid for autonomous flight, though. Pulling off an initiative like this requires a bit more than a bio explaining how "a couple jaded NASA alums" wanted to "alter urban commuting forever." You need cash and expertise. Boeing pulls in almost $100B in sales a year and commands a network of actual rocket scientists.
The group working on their PAV is called Boeing NeXt, and it collaborated with a Boeing subsidiary called Aurora Flight Services to build an entirely electric prototype that took off, hovered for a bit and safely landed. Might not seem like much, but the take-off and landing is the hardest part to nail on the engineering side — and Boeing figured it out in just one year.
Importantly though, they don't seem to be in a rush. The machine as it is now is sleek, but a bit unwieldy at 30 feet long. It's also a bit limited on distance capability (50 miles). As the years pass and Boeing continues to make technical adjustments and nail down forward-flight, the aircraft could slowly resemble our Jetsons dreams.
For more information on the development, head here.
All images via Boeing