The prototype of Boeing’s autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV) has now made its first test flight. Measuring 9.14m in length and 8.53m wide, the PAV is an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft designed and developed over the past 12 months by Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Services with a range of approximately 80 kms, carrying one passenger.
The flight consisted of a controlled takeoff, hover and landing, as well as tests of 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 said in a statement. “This transition phase is typically the most significant engineering challenge for any high-speed VTOL aircraft.”
The autonomous passenger air vehicle project sits alongside’s Boeing’s electric eVTOL cargo air vehicle (CAV) concept that began flight tests in January 2018. The CAV is designed with a payload of 226kg for “possible future cargo and logistics applications”. Both projects sit under the responsibility of Boeing NeXt, which leads the aerospace giant’s efforts in autonomous flight.
“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,” Boeing NeXt vice president and general manager Steve Nordlund said.
“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.”
The Boeing prototypes are among several research efforts around the world, with the likes of Airbus, Uber and Zephyr Airworks, as well as carmakers, airlines and technology companies having projects in various stages of development. There have also been trials on flying air taxis in Dubai whilst Rolls-Royce unveiled an electric vertical takeoff and landing (EVTOL) vehicle at the Farnborough Airshow in July 2018.