Boeing flying car – designed to whisk passengers over congested city streets and dodge skyscrapers - has completed its first test flight on Tuesday, offering a peek into the future of urban transportation the aerospace giant and others are seeking to reshape.
A prototype of the autonomous passenger air vehicle or PAV completed a brief takeoff, hover and landing during the test conducted in Virginia. The electric-powered model is designed for fully autonomous flight, with a range of as much as 80km.
The futuristic-looking PAV is 9 metres long, with a wingspan of 8.5 metres, with room for one passenger –represented in the test flight by a mannequin. Future test flights will assess forward and wing-borne flight and the transition phase between vertical and forward-flight modes.
Boeing and arch-rival Airbus are among a slew of companies racing to stake a claim on flying cars and parcel-hauling drones, which have the potential to be the next disruption to sweep the aerospace industry. Boeing’s push was boosted by a 2017 acquisition of Aurora Flight Sciences, whose projects include a new flying taxi it is developing with Uber Technologies Inc.
Boeing’s urban air mobility arm, Boeing NeXt, enlisted Aurora to design and develop the prototype. The company didn’t say if the model is the one being developed for Uber.
Boeing NeXt’s portfolio also includes a fully electric cargo air vehicle – designed to transport as much as 500 pounds – which completed its first indoor flight last year and is slated for outdoor testing this year.
Morgan Stanley analysts, in their most bullish estimates, predict that the overall 'flying car' market – from personal vehicles to airborne Ubers could lead to a US$2.9 trillion industry by 2040, while their most pessimistic view pegs the value at about US$615 billion.