Boeing today unveiled a giant drone that’s capable of lifting a 500 pound payload. Calling it an “unmanned electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) cargo air vehicle (CAV) prototype,” the aerospace giant said it could serve as a precursor for future autonomous flying aircraft.
The heavy-duty drone took Boeing’s engineers only three months to design and build, the company says. It successfully completed initial flight tests at Boeing’s research lab in Missouri.
“This flying cargo air vehicle represents another major step in our Boeing eVTOL strategy,” said Boeing chief technology officer Greg Hyslop in a statement. “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.”
Powered by an electric propulsion system, the CAV prototype is outfitted with eight rotors allowing for vertical flight. It measures 15 feet long (4.57 meters), 18 feet wide (5.49 meters), and 4 feet tall (1.22 meters), and weighs 747 pounds (339 kilograms). Boeing didn’t provide any other details about the flight, such as the duration of the test or the capacity of the CAV’s batteries.
The unveiling of the new eVTOL aircraft comes just four months after Boeing announced it had acquired Aurora Flight Sciences, an aviation and aeronautics research company that is one of a handful of firms that have partnered with Uber in an effort to develop a network of “flying taxis.” Boeing said that its CAV prototype would “complement” the eVTOL air taxis that Aurora is designing for Uber.
Drones and flying taxis aren’t Boeing’s only VTOL projects in the works. The company is also the primary sponsor of a $2 million contest to build a functional jetpack. The competition seeks entrants who can produce a safe, quiet, ultra-compact jetpack capable of carrying a single person 20 miles or more without refueling or recharging.