Boeing builds its first UAV cargo drone as it plans for a future of electric flight
Boeing, best known for building jet aeroplanes transporting people around the world, has unveiled a new unmanned electric drone prototype intended to inform future plans for autonomous aerial vehicle technology.
The electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) cargo drone is designed to carry up to 220 kilograms and is said to aid the development of future cargo and logistics operations for Boeing.
“This flying cargo air vehicle represents another major step in our Boeing eVTOL strategy”, Boeing’s CTO Greg Hyslop explained. “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.”
Hyslop’s words may seem somewhat grand for what is, essentially, a drone with heavy-lifting capabilities, but if Boeing is making advancements in the field, it shows its committed to moving into an all-electric future for transport. Boeing’s drone is something of an evolution of the Stingray refuelling drone it developed for the US Navy in December 2017.
Instead of being designed to refuel F/A-18 Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers or F-35C fighter jets, this new eVTOL drone simply allows researchers to test applications for electric and autonomous flight.
“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, vice president of Boeing’s HorizonX program.
“The safe integration of unmanned aerial systems is vital to unlocking their full potential. Boeing has an unmatched track record, regulatory know-how and systematic approach to deliver solutions that will shape the future of autonomous flight.”
The prototype was built in less than three months by a team of engineers and technicians across the company. It uses technology harnessed from Boeing’s Horizon X development team along with the eVTOL passenger vehicle Aurora Flight Sciences had developed before their acquisition by Boeing late last year.