First flight for Boeing’s autonomous PAV
January 23, 2019 By Helicopters Staff
Boeing yesterday completed the first test flight of its autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV) prototype in Manassas, Virginia. Boeing NeXt, which leads the company’s urban air mobility efforts, leveraged Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to design and develop the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
The PAV prototype completed a controlled takeoff, hover and landing during the flight, explains Boeing, which tested the vehicle’s autonomous functions and ground control systems. Future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight, as well as the transition phase between vertical and forward-flight modes. Boeing explains this transition phase is typically the most-significant engineering challenge for any high-speed VTOL aircraft.
“In one year, we have progressed from a conceptual design to a flying prototype,” said Boeing CTO Greg Hyslop. Through Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing will continue testing to advance the safety and reliability of on-demand autonomous air transportation.
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 kilometres). Measuring 30 feet (9.14 meters) long and 28 feet (8.53 metres) wide, Boeing explains its 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 CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences. “Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible.”
Boeing NeXt works with regulatory agencies and industry partners to lead the responsible introduction of a new mobility ecosystem, focusing on 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.”