The PAV prototype completed a controlled takeoff, hover, and landing during the short flight, which tested the vehicle's autonomous functions and ground control systems. The test was conducted in Manassas, VA by Boeing NeXt, the company's urban air mobility arm.
Future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight, as well as the transition phase between vertical and forward-flight modes. This transition phase, says the company, is typically the most significant engineering challenge for any high-speed vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft.
"In one year, we have progressed from a conceptual design to a flying prototype," says Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop. "Boeing's expertise and innovation have been critical in developing aviation as the world's safest and most efficient form of transportation, and we will continue to lead with a safe, innovative and responsible approach to new mobility solutions."
The electric-powered PAV prototype is designed for fully autonomous flight from takeoff to landing, with a range of up to 50 miles (80.47 kilometers). It measures 30 feet (9.14 meters) long and 28 feet (8.53 meters) wide, and has an advanced airframe that integrates the propulsion and wing systems to achieve efficient hover and forward flight.
"This is what revolution looks like, and it's because of autonomy," says John Langford, president and chief executive officer of independent Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, which designed and developed the aircraft. "Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean, and safe urban air mobility possible."
In addition to the PAV, Boeing NeXt's portfolio includes an unmanned fully electric cargo air vehicle (CAV) designed to transport up to 500 pounds (226.80 kilograms) and other urban, regional, and global mobility platforms. The CAV completed its first indoor flight last year and will transition to outdoor flight testing in 2019.