Jet-makers are preparing for a world with on-demand, pilotless air taxis

Monday, 23 October 2017, 08:12:28 PM. Years after Detroit's auto companies joined the race to develop self-driving cars, the world's biggest plane-makers now say they see a coming revolution in autonomous, on-demand flight.
Years after Detroit's auto companies joined the race to develop self-driving cars, the world's biggest plane-makers now say they see a coming revolution in autonomous, on-demand flight. Chicago-based aerospace manufacturer has been stepping up its investment in the technologies that enable autonomous flight in recent months. In April, the company backed Washington State-based Zunum Aero, which develops hybrid-electric engines meant to make short-haul flights more cost-efficient. Then on Oct. 5, the company announced its intention to buy Virginia-based Aurora Flight Sciences, a defense contractor that makes experimental fan-powered and solar-powered drones. And Tuesday, it invested an undisclosed amount of money in a company called Near Earth Autonomy, a Pittsburgh-based robotics firm that spun out of Carnegie Mellon University's well-known robotics department. The goal, Boeing's technology executives say, is to assemble a portfolio of robotic flight technologies that could apply to a range of different plane models; the robotic eyes, ears and organs that would theoretically allow a fully self-piloted robot plane to navigate, react and land without a pilot. "We believe these are potentially disruptive technology enablers that could change the future of aviation," said Steve Nordlund, vice president at HorizonX, a venture investment arm of Boeing. There are no immediate plans to replace commercial pilots with computers. But industry experts say the technology enabling...Read more
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