Boeing Acquires Aurora for Autonomous Technology Capabilities

Subsidiary to accelerate Boeing’s development of autonomy technology for aerospace vehicles

Lately, the news from Boeing has been interesting, to say the least. 
The company has ramped up production of their Dreamliner 787’s, despite analysts’ warnings that eating their backlog could hurt smaller suppliers. The increase was scheduled to meet a predicted rise in orders following an upcoming wave of equipment replacements in the industry.
Next, they called for a crippling import duty on Canadian aerospace manufacturer Bombardier. When Bombardier earned an order for 125 CS100s with Delta, Boeing lodged a complaint with the US Department of Commerce, claiming that the $6 billion USD price tag was too high. 
In response, the Canadian government threatened to cancel an order for 18 Boeing Super Hornets. Other voices called for a total ban of Boeing products entering Canada. That may be unwise, considering the Boeing plant in Winnipeg, Manitoba employs 1,400 Canadian workers.
Recently, Boeing tried to switch foundering U.K. carrier Monarch Airlines from Airbus A320s to its 737 MAX planes. Monarch signed an order for 30 of the 737 MAX aircraft back in 2014. None of those planes were delivered, as the company folded on October 2, 2017. The planned switch was an attempt to offer discount destination flights and transform Monarch into a low-cost carrier.  
Now, Boeing plans to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, a developer and manufacturer of advanced aerospace platforms, under an agreement signed by the companies. Aurora specializes in autonomous systems technologies to enable advanced robotic aircraft for future aerospace applications and vehicles. 
Boeing CTO Greg Hyslop and Aurora CEO John Langford. (Image credit Aurora Flight Sciences.)
Boeing CTO Greg Hyslop and Aurora CEO John Langford. (Image credit Aurora Flight Sciences.)

“The combined strength and innovation of our teams will advance the development of autonomy for our commercial and military systems,” said Greg Hyslop, chief technology officer and senior vice president of Boeing Engineering, Test & Technology. “Together, these talented teams will open new markets with transformational technologies.”

Leveraging autonomous systems that include perception, machine learning and advanced flight control systems, Aurora has designed, produced and flown more than 30 unmanned air vehicles since the company was founded in 1989. Aurora also specializes in the emerging field of electric propulsion for aircraft. During the last decade, Aurora has collaborated with Boeing on the rapid prototyping of innovative aircraft and structural assemblies for both military and commercial applications.

“Since its inception, Aurora has been focused on the development of innovative aircraft that leverage autonomy to make aircraft smarter,” said John Langford, Aurora Flight Sciences founder and chief executive officer. “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.”

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Once acquired, Aurora will be a subsidiary under Boeing Engineering Test & Technology known as Aurora Flight Sciences, A Boeing Company. It will retain an independent operating model while benefiting from Boeing’s resources as a provider of aerospace products and services.

All the news coming out of the aerospace manufacturing giant has been very entertaining lately, and I’m interested to see what’s next.

For more aerospace engineering news, read Arconic Talks Installing 3D-Printed Bracket on Series Production Commercial Airbus Airframe.