Aerospace giant Boeing announced today that it would acquire Aurora Flight Sciences, an aviation and aeronautics research company that is one of a handful of firms that have partnered with Uber in an effort to develop a network of “flying taxis.”
Based in Manassas, Virgina, Aurora specializes in autonomous and robotic aircraft. The company has flown over 30 unpiloted flights since its founding in 1989. Boeing says the acquisition will be key in the aerospace company’s further development of autonomous technology and innovate aircraft.
“advance the development of autonomy for our commercial and military systems”
"The combined strength and innovation of our teams will advance the development of autonomy for our commercial and military systems," said Greg Hyslop, chief technology officer and senior vice president of Boeing Engineering, Test and Technology, in a statement. "Together, these talented teams will open new markets with transformational technologies."
Last year, Aurora was awarded a $89 million contract from the Defense Department to develop its wild-looking, unpiloted vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) X-plane. Aurora calls the new plane "LightningStrike," a reference to its electric-powered propulsion. LightningStrike's turboshaft generates 3 megawatts (4,000 horsepower) of electrical power in order to power the 24 ducted fans on its wings.
Aurora also emerged as a crucial linchpin in Uber’s ambitious plan to develop a network of on-demand, electrically powered VTOL aircraft. Five aircraft manufacturers, including Aurora, announced their support of Uber’s plan during a conference in Dallas earlier this year. The aircraft featured in a video by Uber about its on-demand aviation idea is an electric VTOL concept developed by Aurora.
Uber is also partnering with Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, Mooney, and Bell Helicopter on the “flying taxi” project. Two cities, Dallas and Dubai, have expressed interest in playing host. And the ride-hail giant has said it hopes to have a public demonstration of its VTOL project by 2020.
Neither Boeing nor Aurora made any reference to the Uber project in their statements. An Aurora spokesperson told Business Insider that it would continue to work with its existing partners and suppliers following the acquisition. And an Uber spokesperson sounded a positive note about the deal.
"We're excited that Aurora will be joining forces with the great minds at Boeing and we look forward to demonstrating their UberAIR prototype in the years ahead."