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Tech Today: Boeing targets flying taxis, pilotless planes

Tech Today: Boeing targets flying taxis, pilotless planes

Boeing is betting big on automating its flying machines.

The aerospace giant is buying Aurora Flight Sciences, a maker of automated drones and aviation parts, in a bid to bring increased automation to airliners, military drones and even personal air taxis.

Aurora’s founder and CEO said that its products, which include long-endurance aircraft, robotic co-pilots and autonomous electric vertical takeoff aircraft, “will be transitioned into world-class products for the global infrastructure.”

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the acquisition is the clearest signal yet that the planet’s largest plane maker sees automation as the future of aviation.

The move significantly accelerates Boeing’s foray into autonomous technology.

Until now the company had focused on a few drone projects, and an autonomous submarine, but not commercial aviation technology.

The plans came in response to concerns that the industry would experience a shortage of pilots in the near future that would hamper the growth of world air travel.

Boeing estimates the industry will need 637,000 pilots over the next 20 years.

Acquiring the technology may be the easy part, but convincing the public that autonomous aircraft are safe looks to be more difficult.

A recent study shows that only 17% of flyers said they would fly on a pilotless aircraft.

The acquisition also gives Boeing a seat at the table in the race to develop electric air taxis.

Aurora in April made the first flight of its own air-taxi prototype, the XV-24A, designed as part of Uber’s Elevate program to add on-demand air taxis to its ride-sharing product.

 

News Room

October 5th, 2017

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