Boeing has launched a new organisation that will consolidate advanced development work on a wide range of potentially disruptive products, starting with a new multi-modal transportation network within cities for passengers and cargo.
Boeing NeXt, led by Boeing vice-president Steve Nordlund, is the company’s answer to the rise of a crop of start-up companies around the world that are attempting to revolutionise mobility within cities with a new class of flying air taxi vehicles, which often feature electric and distributed propulsion systems with varying levels of autonomous control.
“Through Boeing NeXt, we intend to build on our legacy of opening up new frontiers to move people and goods with proven technologies,” says Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s chief technology officer.
The initiative follows a series of organisational and investment moves spearheaded under Nordlund by HorizonX, an internal venture capital arm that has completed investments in more than dozen start-up companies over the past 14 months.
In addition, Boeing has acquired Virginia-based Aurora Flight Sciences, a company that makes unmanned aircraft and specialises in autonomous software. Aurora is developing a passenger-carrying air taxi. Separately, Boeing Research and Technology also has started developing an unmanned cargo transport for intra-city deliveries.
The initial task of Boeing NeXt is to connect these projects with a set of tools to support a new “ecosystem” for urban mobility, including such basic infrastructure as unmanned traffic management (UTM).
Boeing NeXt has launched a collaboration with Austin, Texas-based start-up SparkCognition to develop artificial intelligence and blockchain technology for tracking unmanned aircraft and assigning routes for passenger and cargo-carrying vehicles.