Boeing unveils prototype for unmanned electric cargo air vehicle

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Boeing on Wednesday unveiled a prototype for an unmanned electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing cargo air vehicle (CAV) that the planemaker said will be used to test its autonomous technology.

The CAV, designed and built in less than three months, is powered by an environmentally-friendly electric propulsion system and can carry up to 500 pounds, Boeing said. It successfully completed initial flight tests at Boeing Research & Technology’s Collaborative Autonomous Systems Laboratory in Missouri.

Powered by an environmentally-friendly electric propulsion system, the CAV prototype is outfitted with eight counter rotating blades allowing for vertical flight. It measures 15 feet long (4.57 meters), 18 feet wide (5.49 meters) and 4 feet tall (1.22 meters), and weighs 747 pounds (339 kilograms).
“Our new CAV prototype … presents new possibilities for autonomous cargo delivery, logistics and other transportation applications,” said Steve Nordlund, vice president of Boeing HorizonX, the unit that developed the CAV.

Chicago-based Boeing’s development of the environmentally-friendly electric propulsion system comes as the race intensifies to advance battery technology and electric motors to lower flying costs and move away from fossil fuels.

Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens came together in November to develop a hybrid electric engine, with Airbus responsible for the control architecture of the propulsion system and batteries.



In October, a Seattle-area startup – backed by the venture capital arms of Boeing and JetBlue Airways Corp – announced plans to bring a small hybrid-electric commuter aircraft to market by 2022.