As drones continue to expand from hobbyists and film makers into commercial and passenger freight, Boeing unveils its monster octocopter.
While driverless vehicle innovations and electric motors alter the future of over-the-road (OTR) freight, drone technology continues to grow “above-the-road” possibilities.
That became clear last week when Boeing announced a successful prototype for its unmanned electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) cargo air vehicle (CAV). It’s a mouthful, but it also packs wallop, weighing more than 700 pounds and measuring 15 feet long, 18 feet wide, and 4 feet tall.
Boeing eVTOL Drone
Armed with eight counter-rotating blades and an electric motor, the eVTOL can lift up to 500 pounds. Boeing released video of the drone’s first successful test flight at its Research and Technology’s Collaborative Autonomous Systems Laboratory in Missouri (below).
While its movements seems rudimentary, Boeing engineers view it as a major milestone in autonomous, commercial, unmanned flight technology.
“We have an opportunity to really change air travel and transport, and we’ll look back on this day as a major step in that journey,” said Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop.
Boeing engineers took less than three months to design and build the quarter-ton-capable eVTOL. And they claimed it could revolutionize unmanned flight.
“When you think about delivering 250 to 500 pounds over a 10- to 20-mile radius, you can change the way that the world connects,” said Boeing engineer David Neely.
Boeing’s creation comes a little more than a year after Griff Aviation announced a line of drones that could carry nearly 500 pounds, and plans for more that could carry a half-ton.
Griff made no mention of autonomous flight. But Boeing made clear it foresees heavy-lifting drones carrying out jobs without human eyes. This could portend the future of not just passenger travel and commercial freight, but it could also revolutionize search-and-rescue operations and assist alpinists and explorers on adventures through the harshest environments.