Boeing has completed the first successful flight of its autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV) as it looks to compete in a growing space we often call the "flying car" segment.
Like so many other machines, Boeing's PAV is a vertical take-off and landing vehicle, or VTOL. The PAV is powered by electric motors that give the vehicle lift like a helicopter, rather than needing space for a runway to deploy. Boeing has not disclosed range or power, however.
The test this past Tuesday in Manassas, Virginia, was meant to verify its autonomous and ground control systems. The electric VTOL lifted off and hovered on its own accord before landing itself. The achievement is rather remarkable considering Boeing went from conceptual design to a scale prototype in just one year.
Yet, the hardest engineering work is still to come. Future tests will focus on the PAV transitioning from vertical flight to forward motion and then wing-borne flgiht. Boeing said the transition phase is the most difficult part for any VTOL machine if it's to achieve high speeds in the future.
Boeing NeXt, which works with regulatory agencies to pave the way for a future in which autonomous and piloted aircraft can fly together, worked with company subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to develop the PAV.
Boeing hopes to be part of a much larger industry in the future with vehicles like the PAV, which will provide a new level of transportation for individuals. Such a world is likely far away without a structure for personal air travel, but that hasn't stopped numerous companies, and even Toyota, from exploring the future of transportation in the sky.