Boeing is buying drone pioneer Aurora Flight Sciences, gaining a portfolio of futuristic technology such as unmanned air taxis that may someday navigate city skies for Uber Technologies. "But I think we know where the vector is pointed and we want to be ready as the technology matures and take full advantage of that in our products".
Langford's innovations with the lightweight structures required for a human-powered aircraft caught the attention of major aerospace companies, and by 1995 Aurora Flight Sciences had become a major structural supplier for the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.
"Since its inception, Aurora has been focused on the development of innovative aircraft that leverage autonomy to make aircraft smarter", said John Langford, Aurora founder and chief executive officer. Aurora in April made the first flight of its own air-taxi prototype, the XV-24A, designed as part of Uber's Elevate program to add on-demand air taxis to its ride-sharing product.
Terms for the proposed purchase of Aurora weren't disclosed. There a lot of attention around drones, unmanned and autonomous vehicles.
Headquartered in Manassas, Virginia, Aurora Flight Sciences has more than 550 employees and operates in six states in the USA including a research and development center located near MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, manufacturing facilities in Bridgeport, West Virginia and Columbus, Mississippi with offices in Dayton, Ohio, Mountain View, California and Luzern, Switzerland.
One of those aforementioned wins by Aurora came past year, when the company beat Boeing to acquire a DARPA contract related to vertical take-offs for a plane called the XV-24A LightningStrike.
Sunrun Inc.is engaged in the design, development, installation, sale, ownership and maintenance of residential solar energy systems in the United States. Aurora, Boeing and aerospace robotics manufacturer Electroimpact teamed up to create developmental test components of the all-composite wing for the 777X, the new jetliner that the Chicago-based planemaker is developing.
"The world is going to be about hybrid-electric airplanes, or all-electric airplanes, and ... more autonomy, and how artifical intelligence enables that", Hyslop said. Only 17% of flyers said they would fly on a pilotless aircraft, according to a recent UBS study.
Boeing has collaborated with Aurora on various experimental projects, not only on aircraft but also on automated manufacturing systems. "There's clearly areas on our commercial aircraft that Aurora can play a role in". The aircraft is powered by 24 ducted fans that tilt, enabling it to take-off vertically like a helicopter, or to hover or cruise. Boeing said it will retain an independent operating model while benefiting from its corporate parent's resources and status.
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