Is autonomous flying the next big thing?

Near Earth Autonomy (NEA) develops technology for a large variety of unmanned flying vehicles from drones to flying cars to commercial planes. Boeing has announced a significant investment into NEA in hope to make autonomous flying the ‘next big thing’.

The investment is in fact part of a broader effort in creating and promoting an industry-wide standard for autonomous flying. Boeing has solidified autonomous flying into its ideal future targets with three specific goals, which are to: Fly safely, land safely and navigate without GPS.

The key factor which makes a vehicle autonomous is its ability to make decisions. It is no secret that commercial planes already have the ability to fly on autopilot, however they still rely on GPS to orient themselves and are unable to analyse their surroundings and adjust to circumstances without the help of a pilot.

NEA have been pursuing technology to aid autonomous vehicles in this decision making process since 2011 and their partnership with Boeing will continue to center around tools to help vehicles synthesize data from their surroundings and output their own plan.

The biggest task ahead for Boeing and NEA in implementing their innovative technologies actually has little to do with the development and is in fact being able to convince the U.S. government that their vision is worth a chance. There the agenda of the companies will be proving to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that their vehicles can be trusted to fly safely.

Boeing is continuing to make significant investments into its vision and goal to making autonomous flying the way of the future; however the question remains whether it can get others on board.

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