Planes get smarter
Boeing is acquiring drone maker Aurora Flight Sciences to boost its tech capabilities and put itself ahead in the smart aircraft space. “We can’t predict what that future looks like,” says Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s chief technology officer, “but whatever form that air travel takes, we want to be a leader,”
Aurora can boast a production line of over 30 unmanned air vehicles since the firm launched back in 1989. The company says it has been focussing on the development of innovative aircraft that leverage autonomy to make planes smarter.
Earlier this year, Aurora demonstrated its ability to utilise the Boeing 737’s auto-landing system to autonomously land the aircraft safely in the event of pilot incapacitation with its ‘Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System’. ALIAS has been designed to function as a second pilot in a two-crew aircraft.
Boeing says that together with Aurora its is looking to advance the development of autonomy-based systems to “open new markets with transformational technologies.”
In April, Uber selected Aurora as a partner to develop electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft for its Uber Elevate Network aimed at improving urban mobility. The car-ride company is looking to develop a fleet of small aircraft to provide aviation on-demand services, with Aurora slated to deliver 50 aircraft for testing by 2020.
Also in the air, airline EasyJet recently announced that is partnering with Wright Electric to develop a commercial electric plane for deployment on short-haul routes. And US- based transport outfit Zunum Aero is busy developing regional hybrid-electric aircraft for deployment as soon as the early 2020s.