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Boeing enters the autonomous flying taxi race with first successful test flight


There are plenty of startups trying to launch their own flying taxi projects, but now that the concept has been proven, the big boys and girls are getting ready to make their move. One of them, multinational aerospace giant Boeing, has just completed the first test flight for its very own vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) electric air taxi. The test “flight” took place this week at an airport just outside the nation’s capital. No one was aboard for the test, which lasted less than a minute and involved the air taxi hovering at an unspecified height over the runway.

Long term, the plan is for Boeing’s vehicles to be able to transport passengers a maximum of 50 miles at a time. Clearly, there’s a ways to go before we reach that point and can catch a Boeing flying taxi to the office. Nonetheless, this demonstration is certainly a step — or, at least, a stationary hover — in the right direction.

“In one year, we have progressed from a conceptual design to a flying prototype,” said Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s chief technology officer, in a statement. “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.”

Boeing hasn’t yet given a name to its latest flying vehicle, which it refers to as a passenger air vehicle. Unlike Boeing planes, there will be no pilot for the flying taxi. Instead, flights will be piloted autonomously, similar to a number of other similar projects. Boeing hasn’t revealed how many passengers the 30-foot-long craft will be able to transport at one time, but it’s likely to be a maximum of one or two. Boeing is also reportedly working on a larger vehicle capable of transporting a maximum cargo of 500 pounds.

As noted, Boeing is far from the only company working in this area. Other big names, including Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce and Uber, along with the Kitty Hawk Flyer project backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, are all competing to become the leader in this exciting new field. Boeing may be slightly late to the party, but its deep pockets and experienced Research and Development division could absolutely make up for it.

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