The Strategist

Boeing tests flying taxi for Uber

01/31/2019 - 11:10

Leaders of the aircraft manufacturing company are convinced that they are on the right path to developing autonomous air taxis on demand.

theglobalpanorama via flickr
theglobalpanorama via flickr
The company published a test flight video showing how a PAV (Passenger Air Vehicle) takes off, hovering for a short time in the air before making a controlled landing.

“In one year, we have moved from conceptual design to a flying prototype,” said Greg Hyslop, a chief technology officer at Boeing, in a statement.

The test flight in Manassas, Virginia, did not last long and did not include forward flight of the aircraft. The pusher screw was not used, and the device made only a vertical take-off and landing using eight electric motors. The flight was carried out in unmanned mode, with the exception of a mannequin seated in place of the pilot. The prototype is battery-powered and designed for a range of 50 miles. It is expected that the mass production of the PAV will commence in the next year.

Boeing management expects that in the future the aircraft will be able to serve as a taxi, as well as will become suitable for other commercial traffic.

Boeing competes with other manufacturers from the aviation industry, as well as with technology companies and startups to develop autonomous air taxis. Bell, a subsidiary of the American industrial conglomerate Textron, is working to create small unmanned aerial vehicles that will, in theory, carry people over short distances in cities. Boeing and Bell are working with Uber, which plans to launch an aero-taxi service called Uber Air.

“The success of the test flight is a huge step forward. The first aircraft took off only two years after the creation of Uber Elevate,” said Eric Allison, head of Elevate at Uber.

Airbus and the German startup Volocopter, competitors of Boeing, are also developing their own prototypes of air taxi.

The question is when these aircraft will move from test flights to transporting people. Uber aims to launch Uber Air by 2023. Nevertheless, there are opinions that the Federal Aviation Administration may require much more time to sign contracts for air taxis flying around cities.

“We will unlock the potential of the urban air mobility market,” said Steve Nordlund, vice president and general manager of Boeing NeXt, a subsidiary of the aerospace giant engaged in the development of autonomous air taxis.