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Boeing Acquires Robotic Aircraft Maker

Imagine an aircraft that can take off and land vertically, but isn’t a helicopter. It has an intelligent pilot, but there’s no human being sitting at the controls. Boeing has propelled itself into the world of futuristic aircraft with its acquisition of Aurora Flight Sciences.  

Boeing announced on Friday that it will acquire Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, a company that specialises in advanced robotic aircraft. Aurora already has an impressive portfolio of autonomous aircraft, including vehicles it has been working on with Uber for its flying taxi project.

Much of Aurora’s business in the past has been with the U.S. Military, namely DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and NASA. Its aircraft have attracted interest (and funding) mainly due to its advanced Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) technology, with the small company beating out Boeing and Lockheed Martin last year to build the VTOL X-Plane for DARPA.

What does Boeing plan to do with this technology? The organisation’s press release doesn’t reveal much, but there’s speculation that the acquisition will help bolster Boeing’s own expertise in autonomous aircraft and VTOL tech, with most of that knowledge being funnelled into military aircraft. On the civilian side, the combination of autonomous piloting and VTOL technology are ideal for finally developing the drone taxis we’ve been hoping for. It is unclear whether Aurora will continue to work with Uber on this project.

A report in the Wall Street Journal notes that the acquisition is likely to have an impact on the jet maker’s supply chain long before it produces self-flying planes: “The technology includes … machine learning capability, which could be used to make industrial operations more efficient. Aurora produces composite parts for aircraft and other vehicles, potentially a big attraction to Boeing as it looks to take greater command of its supply chain.”


In other news this week:

Air France Testing Blockchain Technology

  • Air France KLM’s engineering and maintenance division is evaluating the potential for Blockchain to become its new digital ledger for managing replacement parts on in-service aircraft.
  • A spokesperson noted that Blockchain’s resilience, traceability, integrity and disintermediation are well suited to the aviation supply chain.

Elon Musk On Track To Win Solar Battery Bet

  • Elon Musk has announced that Tesla has reached the halfway point of construction on the “world’s biggest battery” in South Australia.
  • The company has a 100-day deadline to complete the construction of a 100-megawatt battery array, or it will build it for free.
  • The batteries, expected to power 30,000 homes, were commissioned as an innovative solution to an ongoing energy crisis in South Australia.

 Image credit: Aurora Flight Sciences