Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Boeing announced Wednesday that it successfully tested an autonomous so-called flying taxi for Uber in Virginia.
The company issued a statement saying that its prototype passenger air vehicle took off and landed vertically in Manassas, Va. The company said it will continue testing to improve its safety and reliability.
"In one year, we have progressed from a conceptual design to a flying prototype," Boeing chief technology officer Greg Hyslop said in a statement. "Boeing's expertise and innovation have been critical in developing aviation as the world's safest and most efficient form of transportation, and we will continue to lead with a safe, innovative and responsible approach to new mobility solutions."
Boeing designed the PAV to be completely autonomous with a range of about 50 miles. The aircraft is powered by an electronic propulsion system. Future tests will include forward flight and transition from takeoff, to flight, to landing.
"This is what revolution looks like, and it's because of autonomy," said John Langford, president and CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, the Boeing subsidiary that helped design and develop the aircraft. "Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible."
Textron, a subsidiary of Bell Helicopter, is also partnering with Uber in developing a similar vehicle meant to fly people short distances in cities, CNBC reported. Overseas, Airbus and Volocopter, in Germany, are working on air taxi prototypes.
"Air taxi is the next way for our industry, and it's very important for us to make sure we are among the disrupters to think about what should be transportation in the next 10-20 years," Patrick Moulay, executive vice president for commercial helicopter sales at Bell, told Bloomberg last February.
Uber unveiled models of its flying taxis at its Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angeles last May as a way to cut down commute times and reduce pollution.
Uber Air has said the public will start seeing air taxis by 2023; Bell has predicted 2025. Some experts believe it will take much longer for the Federal Aviation Administration to give a thumbs-up on the industry.