Boeing's New Cargo Air Vehicle - the Future of Drones?
Tom Spendlove posted on January 11, 2018 |
Boeing has released a new octocopter that might one day be capable of transporting 500 pounds.

On Wednesday January 10 Boeing tweeted out a video of its newest autonomous air vehicle. The project comes from Boeing's HorizonX division and doesn't have a slick code name yet beyond eVTOL CAV (electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing cargo aerial vehicle).

The octocopter is four feet tall and has a 15 x 18 foot body, with a weight that comes in over 700 pounds. The batteries are a proprietary Boeing design and there look to be four of them spaced around the body of the CAV. The drone is designed to carry payloads between 250 and 500 pounds and operate within a 10 to 20 mile radius.

Boeing says that the development of the drone took around three months from paper design to flying vehicle. The engineering group is focused on development in battery technology, drone takeoff and landing, and autonomous control.

A vehicle like this has several exciting possibilities. Two separate people sent the tweet to me yesterday with notes that package delivery will never be the same, but we should be able to do more with aircraft this large. When I heard the payload is targeted to reach 500 pounds over time, my brain immediately thought that the drones could be used to transport patients to hospitals or clinics in remote areas, and there are most likely military applications to transport soldiers as well. The long term benefit might hopefully be flying cars, and all of the legislation / airborne accidents / disruptive changes that might come with them.

This video is definitely built as a promotional tool for Boeing but there's also a great sense of hope and wonder, feeding into my own broad definition that engineers should make the world a better place. When we wrote about the Guinness World Record for "Heavist payload lifted by a remote-controlled multicopter" in 2016 the record was a little more than 134 pounds. It's exciting to think that benchmark will continue to be raised in the coming years.

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