Boeing has developed a prototype aircraft for Uber Air’s upcoming flying taxi service.
This week, Boeing’s prototype passenger air vehicle (PAV) took to the skies for the very first time. This successful flight is an important step for the company’s future in electric aircraft development. The company plans for the unnamed aircraft to be fully autonomous and have an range of up to 50 miles.
This prototype was developed as part of Boeing’s NeXt program, a division focused on new mobility ventures, along with Boeing subsidiary Aura Flight Services. The PAV was specifically designed for Uber Air. Uber hopes to launch an autonomous flying taxi service as soon as 2023.
The aircraft went from conceptual design to flying prototype in a fairly short time. According to 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.
This first test showcased the vehicle’s autonomous functions and ground control systems. Future test flights will focus on forward flight and the transition between vertical and forward-flight movement.
Like autonomous cars, Uber and Boeing will face difficulties with local and federal regulations. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) delayed rules on small, private drones for years. In addition, congress still has not passed laws on autonomous vehicle testing. It seems likely that government laws and regulations for large, autonomous flying vehicles are years away.
However, progress is being made. Because of these potential road blocks, Boeing NeXt is already working with regulatory agencies and other industry players to develop rules in preparation for future air taxi services.
Author: Wade Malone