If you’ve ever flown on a commercial flight, you’re probably familiar with the Boeing brand. Responsible for manufacturing about half of the world’s commercial airline fleet, Boeing has for decades, claimed dominance in creating and building the objects you see flying above you.
In addition to creating jumbo jetliners that hold hundreds of people in various states of discomfort, Boeing is also setting its sights on electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, specifically air taxis and cargo vehicles in partnership with Uber and the like. The new division responsible for perfecting this technology is called Boeing NeXt.
Back in January, the company invited members of the media to its Manassas, Virginia test facility to witness a concept eVTOL vehicle complete an unmanned test, in which it was able to take off, hover for less than a minute, and land.
Unimpressed? Just remember that Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first flight wasn’t all that long, either.
From Sketch to Reality in 365 Days
Boeing completed its first test flight of its unmanned passenger air vehicle in January. (Boeing)
Amazingly, this vehicle was nothing more than a design concept just a year ago. Now, it’s a flying prototype. Anyone with transportation-sector experience knows how remarkable this feat is.
Boeing’s air taxi prototype is 30 feet long and has a wingspan of 28 feet, making it a sizable vehicle. For comparison, a full-size Chevrolet Suburban SUV is just short of 19 feet long and less than 7 feet wide.
Fully electric, Boeing’s eVTOL aircraft should provide a 50-mile range on a single charge. That’s a modest figure, but keep in mind that this air taxi is designed to hop around on building tops in a squirmingly crowded metropolis like New York City.
If the idea of hopping a ride in an autonomous flying vehicle gives you the hives, know that Boeing is also developing a traffic-management system in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration to make the idea of flying cars a reality. The company is also working on unmanned cargo drone vehicles that can deliver big, heavy loads.
In the meantime, don’t count on saying goodbye to your friendly UPS driver anytime soon.