Boeing's flying car has taken off

A Boeing Co. flying vehicle created to whisk passengers over congested city streets and dodge skyscrapers completed its first test flight on Tuesday, offering a peek into the future of urban transportation the aerospace giant and others are seeking to shape.

The world's largest aerospace company successfully launched a 30-foot-long Passenger Air Vehicle a few feet off the ground before sticking a gentle landing less than a minute later, per a report via Yahoo!

Boeing and others have discussed the idea of autonomous flying taxis to help ease congestion and improve short-range transportation.

"In one year, we have progressed from conceptual design to a flying prototype", Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop said in a statement. Boeing is working on this in partnership with Uber, and the aviation company's leadership has said they believe the prototype shows enough promise that it will eventually be usable in an air taxi fleet in the not-too-distant future.

Boeing said future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight, as well as the transition phase between vertical flight and forward flight.

The autonomous flight industry is expanding rapidly, and it has already made quite a bit of progress - Boeing's latest accomplishment is a great example of that. It uses an unspecified electric propulsion system that gives it a range of up to 50 miles (80.47 km).

One of the most disappointing things about living in the future we once imagined is the conspicuous lack of flying cars that The Jetsons promised us. In addition to the PAV, the Boeing NeXt portfolio includes an unmanned fully electric cargo air vehicle (CAV) created to transport up to 500 pounds (226.80 kilograms) and other urban, regional and global mobility platforms.

Boeing bought Manassas-based Aurora Flight Sciences a year ago to speed development of a fleet of autonomous air vehicles.

Boeing is working with startup SparkCognition Inc and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to develop a traffic-management system for three-dimensional highways, as well as the regulatory framework that will allow waves of autonomous vehicles to zip safely around buildings, the company has said.

Airbus, Uber and Intel are all trying to build a viable commercial flying auto. A redesigned prototype went through indoor flight tests last month, with outdoor flights expected to follow later this year. Real prototype vehicles are being built right now.

  • Eleanor Harrison