Boeing has finally shown interest in a future filled with autonomous drones and flying vehicles. Time to pay attention.

The aerospace giant, Boeing Company, confirmed last week that it would be acquiring a leading autonomous drone company, Aurora Flight Science Corp. Aurora’s been known for creating VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft.

For the past years, Aurora has shown a keen interest in autonomous drones and pilotless flying vehicles. In fact, it has been reported early this year that the company will collaborate with Uber Technologies in making the latter’s ambitious flying taxi project a dream.

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On the other hand, Boeing has been dominating the defense and aerospace vehicle manufacturing scene for decades. In a statement, Boeing’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, Test, and Technology Greg Hyslop said:

“This really represents a new chapter for the Boeing company because the aerospace industry is going to be changing as it moves into the future.”

Investing on Autonomous Drone Systems

Aurora is noted for its accomplishment in beating some of the most prominent companies in the defense industry-including Boeing-when it comes to securing advance research and development contracts.

For instance, one of its project, the XV-24A LightningStrike (VTOL X-Plane), an experimental, fan-propelled autonomous drone is funded by the Pentagon‘s weapons research agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The VTOL X-Plane is propelled by 24 ducted fans and could transform its shape mid-flight.

In addition to that, the company also secured a funding contract with DARPA for the development of a zero-emissions aircraft that will be powered entirely using the energy captured by its wing-mounted solar panels.

Apparently, Boeing is planning to use other technologies currently being worked on at Aurora to its own advantage. Aurora’s expertise when it comes to designing autonomous flight systems and vehicles could aid Boeing in employing artificial intelligence to its fleet of airplanes.

“The combined strength and innovation of our teams will advance the development of autonomy for our commercial and military systems,” Hyslop went on to say“Together, these talented teams will open new markets with transformational technologies.”

In a separate statement, Aurora’s founder, John Langford, was quoted as saying:

“Since its inception, Aurora has been focused on the development of innovative aircraft that leverage autonomy to make aircraft smarter. As an integral part of Boeing, our pioneered technologies of long-endurance aircraft, robotic co-pilots, and autonomous electric VTOLs will be transitioned into world-class products for the global infrastructure.”

Reports claimed that the deal between Boeing and Aurora is structured to keep the latter as an independent subsidiary under the Boeing brand. However, the merger is still subject to Pentagon’s review who has been keeping an eye on the defense industry as it undergoes a wave of consolidation.

In the past, Boeing has used acquisitions to get better control of the emerging next-generation technology markets. In 2008, the company boosted its unmanned systems offering by acquiring Insitu, and just recently, it also bought Liquid Robotics, a company known for developing a robotic submarine technology.

With the impending acquisition of Aurora, are we on the edge of witnessing the birth of a new era of pilotless flying vehicles and autonomous drones? What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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