Boeing has unveiled a new unmanned cargo air vehicle (CAV), basically a drone that could transport 500 pounds or 226 kilos worth of goods.
The aerospace giant, which calls the prototype unmanned electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL), says it was made as a precursor to Boeing's autonomy technology for future aerospace vehicles.
"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 in an official statement.
Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop added that the CAV is a "major step" in the company's eVTOL strategy. "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," he said.
The 4.57-meter long, 5.49-meter wide, and 1.22-meter tall prototype was hastily made in less than three months by a group of Boeing engineers and technicians. The 339-kilogram device is outfitted with eight counter-rotating blades and is powered by an environment-friendly electric propulsion system.
The company says test flights have already been completed at its Research & Technology's Collaborative Autonomous Systems Laboratory in Missouri, although Boeing has yet to reveal its speed or range.
To make the prototype, the company used technology that it acquired when it bought Aurora Flight Sciences just four months ago.
Aurora Flight Sciences is an aviation and aeronautics research company, which partnered with Uber to develop a network of "flying taxis." Boeing says its eVTOL should "complement" the prototype aircraft previously developed by Aurora.
Cargo is not the only one Boeing is interested in transporting using VTOL technology. In September, the company became the primary sponsor in a contest called Go Fly Prize. This encourages entrants to build a safe and functional jetpack that could carry a single person for 20 miles without re-fueling or re-charging. The price, if anyone is successful, is $2 million.