Boeing Tests Flying Taxi

This week aerospace giant Boeing Co. tested a prototype flying taxi, following similar tests by more than a dozen other companies in recent years.

Boeing’s inaugural flight, conducted at a closed airport in Manassas, Va., lasted only about one minute as the vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTL) unit hovered a few feet off the ground. Future tests will focus on wing-borne forward flights and the transition from vertical takeoff.

Measuring 30-ft-long and 28-ft-wide, the electric-powered aircraft has a flying range of about 50 miles and is capable of fully autonomous operation. The module can carry four people.

Boeing designed the VTL with subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, which the company acquired in 2017. The partners also are working with Uber Technologies Inc.’s UberAir unit, which aims to launch pilot programs for a fleet of flying taxis next year in Dallas and Los Angeles.

Boeing is working with startup SparkCognition Inc. and the Federal Aviation Administration to develop a traffic-management system and standards for flying cars.

In addition to the passenger module, Boeing is developing a cargo variant of the VTL that can carry as much as 500 lbs. Outdoor testing of that aircraft is planned for later this year.

Rival Airbus is developing its own VTL air taxi. The French aeronautics company has completed several tests and aims to launch commercial applications by about 2023.

Among the other companies developing air taxis are Aston Martin, Bell Helicopter, Daimler, Intel, Terrafugia, Toyota, and Volkswagen. Some of the prototypes are flying cars that can be driven on the road and through the air.