- Boeing's Horizon X technology investment division has invested in the Near Earth Autonomy company, which specializes in enabling autonomous flight, including sensor kits, collision detection, avoidance systems and human-machine interfaces, Thomas.Net reported last week.
- Thus far, the technology developed by Near Earth has aided aircraft in inspecting, mapping, and surveying land as well as other infrastructure.
- Horizon X's investment in Near Earth involves a shared effort to develop potential new products and applications, particularly those improving urban mobility.
Autopilot is already here, but will we ever be ready to embrace it?
Departures and landings have long been managed by autopilot, as has a plane's route, yet potential passengers remain resistant to the idea of an unmanned flight, even if travel prices drop significantly as a result. However, an autonomous cargo flight could be more easily accepted, depending on its destination.
Autonomy is foremost on the minds of investors in the trucking and aviation industries, though both are undergoing staffing shortages as a result of technology demands and contract unpredictability. As a result, the threat of strikes, particularly in aviation, remains a continual threat, with protest letters — and the replies they garner — becoming legion. Though passenger flights are not unaffected, it's cargo transport that's most at risk.
Not coincidentally, therefore, when an industry giant like Boeing publicly and financially supports a company developing autonomous flight technology, the timeline for its application decreases. How soon can we expect it? That depends on regulation, as always. But if the ability is there, and the reduction in cost outweighs the risk, it's likely to happen within the next five years. The only question is, will it be allowed?