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Boeing Takes Another Step Into the Pilotless Plane Market

Chicago-based aviation giant Boeing stepped up its investment in autonomous technology last week when it announced plans to buy Aurora Flight Sciences, a Manassas, Va.-based company that develops experimental self-piloting aircraft.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Boeing executives described the deal as a move to align itself with future trends in aviation technology.

"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," said Greg Hyslop, Boeing's senior vice president of engineering, test and technology.

He declined to go into detail about how Aurora’s technologies would be integrated into Boeing’s business.

Aurora is noted for beating out some of the defense industry’s biggest companies, including Boeing, on advanced research-and-development contracts. One is the XV-24A LightningStrike, an experimental, fan-propelled drone funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s weapons research agency. Another DARPA-funded effort is a zero-emissions aircraft powered completely through energy captured by wing-mounted solar panels.

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