Boeing Built an Enormous Drone Capable of Carrying 500 Pounds

Wednesday, 10 January 2018 - 8:14PM
Wednesday, 10 January 2018 - 8:14PM
Boeing Built an Enormous Drone Capable of Carrying 500 Pounds
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The process of transporting cargo is about to change an awful lot, if Boeing has anything to say about it. 

Boeing has unveiled what the company has named the "unmanned electric Vertical-Takeoff-and-Landing (eVTOL) Cargo Air Vehicle (CAV) prototype", a giant octocopter drone that's 18 feet wide (5.5 meters) and capable of transporting up to 500lbs of cargo through the air.

What's particularly impressive is that Boeing took the "eVTOL CAV" from an initial design all the way through to the prototype stage in just three weeks, which probably goes some way to explaining why the company hasn't come up with a snappier name for their creation just yet. Initial test flights have been undertaken at Boeing's research base in Missouri, and it's expected that the company will fine tune their creation before eventually making it available for any customers.

According to Boeing's chief technology officer Greg Hyslop:

Opening quote
"This flying cargo air vehicle represents another major step in our Boeing eVTOL strategy. 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."
Closing quote

As pleased as Boeing is for getting something like this thrown together in just three months, there's probably more going on than just a show of efficiency. For the company to fast-track a project like this, it likely means that someone within the company is worried about losing out to another aerospace rival.

Quadcopter tech (or octocopter, in this case) is developing at an impressive rate, with plenty of new ideas for flying vehicles either used to transport people or cargo (and occasionally creating autonomous flying assassins that will haunt your nightmares). It's clear from the fast turnaround that Boeing is worried that any delays on rushing their own cargo drone out to market could mean losing ground to one of these other currently in-development projects.

Indeed, this isn't the only futuristic technology that Boeing is sinking research and development dollars into. The company clearly sees the writing on the wall in terms of traditional air travel, and is looking to diversify interests, as well as looking up to space and all its wondrous potential.

Two years ago, Boeing filed a patent for a force field, while more recently, the company has started working with DARPA to create planes that are capable of flying up into space. There's plenty of additional efforts to get Boeing space-worthy, with company CEO Dennis Muilenburg publicly goading Elon Musk into a race to get to Mars.

The next few years are going to be interesting for Boeing, but based on their eagerness to embrace up and coming technological breakthroughs, it most certainly can't be said that they're resting on their laurels.

Whether this will work out in the long run remains to be seen - while Boeing's cargo drone will probably be the first of its kind to hit the market, it does have some limitations in terms of battery life and distance capabilities that might lead to it suffering compared with other alternatives when they arrive.

Presumably, the plan is to get one of these giant drones out to consumers as soon as possible, after which Boeing can worry about finessing their initial design to continue to stay one step ahead of the competition. Either way, we're drawing closer to a future where flying goods can be delivered with increased speed, and that's only a good thing for the online shopping-obsessed people of the world.

Science News