Boeing NeXt drone completes forward-flight milestone [VIDEO]

Boeing’s 227-kilogram-capacity Cargo Air Vehicle (CAV) successfully completed forward flight tests in an outdoor environment. The company’s innovation-focused NeXt team commenced outdoor testing earlier this year, and has since completed more than 90 outdoor flights, according to a release from the company.

During a recent three-minute flight test the CAV took off, hovered, and then flew several thousand feet down the runway along a pre-programmed flight path before landing. After rigorous testing of the drone’s vertical take-off, landing, and now forward flight capabilities, flight test engineers will equip the drone with various payloads and move into load analysis and performance tests.

Since unveiling the drone prototype last year, Boeing’s NeXt research lab has continued to make small refinements to the vehicle’s design. The current iteration of the electrically powered vehicle measures 5.3 meters in length, is 6.1 meters wide and weighs 500kg – at its first unveiling, the prototype was a svelte 339 kgs. The vehicle now boasts six dual-rotor systems and 12 propellers, a few more than the original design, which was equipped with just eight counter-rotating propellers.

Boeing expects the CAV to open up new markets, “by offering efficiencies in delivering time-sensitive and high-value goods for cargo and logistics applications.” Cargo vehicles are seen by manufacturers and regulatory authorities alike as the gateway to autonomous flight.

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