Boeing unveils unmanned freighter prototype

Boeing unveils unmanned freighter prototype

Boeing has unveiled a new unmanned electric vertical-take-off-and-landing (eVTOL) cargo air vehicle (CAV) prototype that will be used to test and evolve Boeing’s autonomy technology for future aerospace vehicles. It is designed to transport a payload up to 227kg for possible future cargo and logistics applications.

“This flying cargo air vehicle represents another major step in our Boeing eVTOL strategy,” said Boeing chief technology officer Greg Hyslop. “We have an opportunity to really change air travel and transport, and we’ll look back on this day as a major step in that journey.”

In less than three months, a team of engineers and technicians across the company designed and built the CAV prototype. It successfully completed initial flight tests at Boeing Research & Technology’s Collaborative Autonomous Systems Laboratory in Missouri, USA.

Boeing researchers will use the prototype as a flying test bed to mature the building blocks of autonomous technology for future applications. Boeing HorizonX, with its partners in Boeing Research & Technology, led the development of the CAV prototype, which complements the eVTOL passenger air vehicle prototype aircraft in development by Aurora Flight Sciences, a company acquired by Boeing late last year.

“Our new CAV prototype builds on Boeing’s existing unmanned systems capabilities and presents new possibilities for autonomous cargo delivery, logistics and other transportation applications,” said Steve Nordlund, Boeing HorizonX vice president. “The safe integration of unmanned aerial systems is vital to unlocking their full potential.”

Powered by an environmentally-friendly electric propulsion system, the CAV prototype is outfitted with eight counter rotating blades allowing for vertical flight. It measures 14.57m, 5.49m wide and 1.22m, and weighs 339kg.

According to Megan Hilfer from Boeing Communications, the prototype is a flying test bed that will be used to mature the building blocks of electric vertical-take-off-and-landing (eVTOL) and safe, reliable autonomous flight.

“This maturation will lead to market-driven products that will someday offer customers the ability to carry hundreds of kilograms over broad distances in a way that makes it useful and relevant to them,” she said.

“The technology tested on this prototype will open up new possibilities for delivering time-sensitive and high-value goods, conducting autonomous missions in remote or dangerous environments, and other cargo and logistics applications. This could include oil rig and ship resupply, port operations, mining, construction, and logistics companies that move goods between distribution centres. We fully expect partners around the world will create new ways of applying this technology.”

 

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