The inaugural trip focused on takeoff and landing, but there's more on the horizon.
Boeing is one step closer to bringing a flying taxi to the masses -- well, the masses that can afford personal, autonomous air travel, at least.
Boeing announced on Wednesday that its vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) electric air taxi has completed its first flight. Flight is a loose term here, though -- the initial test only exercised the craft's takeoff, hover and landing abilities, in addition to its autonomous functions. It will expand testing to include traditional wing-based flight and the transition between the two states, which Boeing says is the trickiest part, in future flights.
Boeing is delighted at the pace it's progressing. "In one year, we have progressed from a conceptual design to a flying prototype," said Greg Hyslop, Boeing's CTO, in a statement. "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."
The craft, which doesn't have a name but is referred to as a passenger air vehicle (PAV) prototype, is intended to be completely autonomous from takeoff to landing. Its electric motors and battery provide up to 50 miles of range. The whole shebang measures some 30 feet long and 28 feet wide. Boeing didn't say how many people it can accommodate, but judging by the single picture it provided, it'll hold at least two adults.
That's not all Boeing is cooking up through its Boeing Next group, which is responsible for developing the airborne mobility of the future. It's also working on a cargo version of the same vehicle, which can carry up to 500 pounds of whatever. That one has already completed an indoor test, with outdoor tests to come later this year.
There is an unbelievable amount of hype around the idea of personal air transport, or flying cars, or whatever you want to call them. Every company thinks it has the design of the future, whether it's the gnarly Bell Nexus concept from CES 2019 or the Audi and Airbus concept that is part plane and part car. There's also Uber, which is hosting conferences about the future of personal flight in an attempt to get flying cars off the ground. It's the Wild West right now, which means ideas are running amok.
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