The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Boeing NeXt Says PAV Test Flights Will Resume in Early 2020

Boeing NeXt subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences expects to resume flight testing of its Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) early in 2020. The flight test program for the eVTOL aircraft prototype has been suspended following a crash during the aircraft's fifth test flight on June 4, 2019.

On November 18, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that the Aurora team in Manassas, Virginia, is making plans to restart the flight-test program. The aircraft is designed to operate autonomously and will be able to carry two passengers on flights up to around 50 miles.

The PAV was part of Boeing's display at the 2019 Dubai Air Show in November. Aurora's vice president for communications and marketing Blythe Jameson told FutureFlight: “We learned some lessons from that incident and now expect to resume test flying the second PAV prototype early in the new year.”

Boeing's NeXt engineering team continues to research battery technologies for the PAV as well as whether it should employ swappable or fixed batteries. Boeing has also partnered with SparkCognition on SkyGrid, an AI- and blockchain-powered airspace management software platform that will help enable safe operation of the PAV in the crowded urban air environment.

Meanwhile, the company’s remote-controlled Cargo Air Vehicle (CAV), which will be able to carry loads of up to 500 pounds and eventually will be fully autonomous, has conducted “dozens” of test flights since taking to the skies in May, said Jameson. The vehicle, which weighs 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms), has six dual-rotor systems and 12 propellers.

At the same time, Aurora Flight Sciences, which Boeing acquired in 2017 to serve as its rapid-prototyping division, is preparing to begin flight testing of the high-altitude solar/battery-powered Boeing Odysseus unmanned aircraft system (UAV) by year-end. The company initially planned to fly the airplane, which sports six electric motors, earlier this year but hit undisclosed development snags. The Odysseus UAV has a wingspan of 243 feet (74 meters), which is larger than that of  Boeing's 777X airliner. Boeing envisions three major markets for Odysseus: earth science, including atmospheric research; communications relay; and defense.