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Boeing Buys Autonomous Drone-Maker Aurora Flight Systems

Boeing Buys Autonomous Drone-Maker Aurora Flight Systems”

The Company is involved in the design, development, manufacture, sale, service and support of commercial jetliners, military aircraft, satellites, missile defense, human space flight and launch systems and services. "The aerospace industry is going to be changing as we move into the future.

But whatever form that air travel takes, we want to be a leader", Greg Hyslop, Boeing's chief technology officer, said on a webcast after the acquisition was announced Thursday. That merger came on the heels of a $30 billion megadeal between United Technologies and Rockwell Collins.

Aurora is headquartered in Manassas, Va., and has more than 550 employees at facilities in six states plus Switzerland.

The Aurora transaction, which Hyslop hopes to close this year although it is subject to regulatory review, is an investment beyond Boeing's ventures unit called HorizonX that stood up earlier this year to invest in early-stage companies that have emerging technologies that could help the company in the longer-term. In April, Aurora flew an air taxi prototype with vertical takeoff and landing technology and plans to deliver 50 to Uber Elevate, the ride-sharing company's flying auto enterprise, by 2020. Its aircraft use autonomous technology including perception, machine learning and advanced flight-control systems.

Boeing in June said it would explore automation for commercial aircraft.

In April, the company successfully flew an air-taxi prototype that takes off and lands vertically, handy for rooftop arrivals and departures. Uber, which also counts Textron Inc. and Embraer SA as partners, envisions urban customers zipping over traffic snarls with aircraft summoned by computer or mobile phone.

Aurora founder and CEO John Langford said: "Since its inception, Aurora has been focused on the development of innovative aircraft that leverage autonomy to make aircraft smarter". The GoldenEye-80 was introduced at the 2009 AUVSI (Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) North America trade show.

"We considered it carefully, and realised this could be a really powerhouse of a combination", Langford says.

In Boeing's defense, space, and security division, the company delivered 3 new and 15 remanufactured AH-64 Apache helicopters; 2 new and 9 renewed CH-47 Chinook helicopters; 4 F-15 fighters; 6 F/A-18 fighters, and 5 P-8 reconnaissance planes.

Boeing's vision for Aurora Flight Sciences is to follow the model set by two previous acquisitions of autonomous companies: Insitu and Liquid Robotics.

"The world is going to be about hybrid-electric airplanes, or all-electric airplanes, and ... more autonomy, and how artifical intelligence enables that", Hyslop said.

Boeing may be in the commercial airplane business, but it's betting on a future without airplane pilots. "There's clearly areas on our commercial aircraft that Aurora can play a role in". Aurora also specializes in the emerging field of electric propulsion for aircraft. Once acquired, Aurora will be a subsidiary under Boeing Engineering Test & Technology known as Aurora Flight Sciences, A Boeing Company. The aircraft featured in a video by Uber about its on-demand aviation idea is an electric VTOL concept developed by Aurora.

The Boeing Company, launched on July 19, 1934, is an aerospace company.



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