Boeing Expects Electric Passenger Drones Within 10 Years

One of the largest industrial companies in the United States is pretty confident that flying taxis will become reality within a decade.

Aurora Flight Sciences

Airplane manufacturer Boeing is adamant that electric passenger drones will hit the market within the next 10 years. We previously reported on Boeing’s acquisition of Aurora Flight Sciences, a firm focused on advanced unmanned systems, which the company certainly seems to be benefitting from significantly these days. In recent months, the preponderance of passenger drones has reached peak levels, with a wide variety of companies entering the nascent field and developing passenger UAVs intended for public use. While the standardization of flying taxis may seem far off, to some, Boeing is quite confident that they’ll become reality within a decade.

According to Bloomberg, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has tangible reasons to believe we’ll be seeing autonomous passenger drones in the skies soon. 

“I think it will happen faster than any of us understand,” he said. “Real prototype vehicles are being built right now. So the technology is very doable.” 

He’s not wrong, either, as we’ve recently seen both Airbus’ entry into this industry as well as Ehang’s first successful flight, passenger included. 

Of course, the ubiquity of passenger drones is facing the same exact obstacle that the delivery drone market is facing: The lack of an established, cohesive air-traffic management network. 

“Nothing like that has been certified,” said aeronautics professor at MIT, John Hansman. “People at the FAA are worrying about how to do it, but nobody knows how to do it yet.” 

On top of that, flying taxis are transporting human beings, not parcels, which adds a complicated layer of safety, insurance, and potential adoption fears on behalf of users. 

“It won’t be all turned on in one day,” Muilenburg admits. He is, however, of the firm belief that any impeding issues will be sorted out sooner, rather than later, which, coming from the CEO of Boeing, is quite heartening. 

Regarding Aurora Flight Sciences, purchased by Boeing last Fall, the innovative autonomous vehicle company has reportedly been hard at work on an electric vertical take-off and landing two-seater, and is even collaborating with Uber on flying taxi technologies. Aurora intends on using "vertiports" to ferry passengers from rooftop to rooftop, with potential test flights taking place in 2020 in Dallas and Dubai. 

As you can see, things are moving fairly rapidly here, and a giant new industry is taking shape in front of our eyes. With so many corporations focused on getting autonomous passenger drones prepared for common use, the eager estimate of seeing them in play within 10 years certainly seems more feasible than it did a few years ago. In any case, it's exciting to see a company as big as Boeing feeling so confident. We can't wait to see this industry take off.