Boeing HorizonX invests in autonomous flight company

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Now, the aviation company's HorizonX Ventures division has announced its investment in Near Earth Autonomy - a company that focuses on technologies that enable reliable autonomous flight - further solidifying its support for these burgeoning technologies.

One of its first investments saw Boeing HorizonX invest in Zunum, a Washington State-based company developing regional hybrid-electric aircraft, with capacities for 10-50 passengers and ranges of 700-1,000 miles (1,100-1,600km). HorizonX typically makes investments "that span the single millions up to the low teens", a spokeswoman said.

As much as the major automotive companies are showing interest in and taking over startups engaged in autonomous driving technology, the aerospace companies are also equally keen on adding muscle to this technology in their line of activity. Also investing in Zunum is a subsidiary of the United States short-haul budget airline JetBlue Airways. Last week, Boeing announced it is acquiring Aurora Flight Services, a drone pioneer that is helping to develop flying taxis for Uber Technologies Inc.

Near Earth Autonomy is led by Sanjiv Singh, the company's acting CEO. "When you think about disasters like Puerto Rico, where so numerous roads are washed out, autonomous aircraft could help to deliver supplies and bottled water".

The move marks the first investment HorizonX Ventures has made since its creation past year, but the relationship between Boeing and Near Earth doesn't end there. Plus, in addition to the financial stake, Boeing is partnering with Near Earth Autonomy on future-focused tech around autonomous flight, including urban mobility. It also expands the types of missions where aircraft are used, enabling manned and unmanned operations. Two of their groundbreaking achievements include the world's first full-size autonomous helicopter flights in partnership with the US Army in 2010 and ongoing work with the Office of Naval Research developing an autonomous aerial cargo delivery platform for the US Marines.

Singh obtained his Ph.D.in Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University in 1995 and has since been on the faculty at the Robotics Institute.

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