Aerospace giant Boeing has announced plans to open an Aerospace & Autonomy Centre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The centre will become one of the first major tenants of MIT’s Kendall Square development.
As part of the deal, Boeing will lease 100,000 square feet inside a new 17-floor building at 314 Main Street, Cambridge. The research centre will home Boeing employees, as well as many from subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, the startup acquired by Boeing at the end of 2017 that’s currently developing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) passenger drones.
Boeing to become latest Kendall Square resident
The move has obvious advantages for both parties. Boeing’s research facility feeds into MIT’s strategy to foster innovation in Kendall Square and develop the area, while also placing Boeing at the heart of an ecosystem known for leading the way in science and technology.
“It’s fitting that Boeing will join the Kendall/MIT innovation family,” said MIT Provost Martin Schmidt. “Our research interests have been intertwined for over 100 years, and we’ve worked together to advance world-changing aerospace technologies and systems.
“MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics is the oldest program of its kind in the United States, and excels at its mission of developing new air transportation concepts, autonomous systems and small satellites through an intensive focus on cutting-edge education and research. Boeing’s presence will create an unprecedented opportunity for new synergies in this industry.”
Subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences already has a lab in the area. It’s expected that its staff will move across to Boeing’s new location.
“Today, Aurora’s Kendall Square team is already building innovative autonomous systems,” said John Langford, Aurora Flight Sciences founder, chief executive officer and MIT alumnus.
By expanding Aurora’s 30-year relationship with MIT, and working with Boeing, we are creating a collaborative space where engineers, students and researchers can work together to create technologies that will define the next-century of air mobility.
Introducing Boeing NeXT
Plans for the new research centre follow the unveiling of Boeing NeXt, a spin-off company dedicated to exploring the future of travel and transport.
The aerospace company has several interests in the autonomous vehicle space. Earlier this year Boeing unveiled a prototype of a heavy-lifting cargo drone that could be a precursor for military logistics.
Last month a collaboration with startup SparkCognition was announced; the aim is to deliver unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) solutions using AI and blockchain technology.
All of this ambition and research will likely revolve around the new base in Kendall Square. “Boeing is leading the development of new autonomous vehicles and future transportation systems that will bring flight closer to home,” said Greg Hyslop, Boeing chief technology officer.
“By investing in this new research facility, we are creating a hub where our engineers can collaborate with other Boeing engineers and research partners around the world and leverage the Cambridge innovation ecosystem.”
Internet of Business says
Boeing isn’t the only company angling for a place in the future flying vehicle market. Airbus has collaborated on a flying car with Audi, Rolls Royce recently showed off its own concept, and Uber has teamed up with NASA and the US Army to help deliver air taxis. Newcomers BlackFly and Kitty Hawk, meanwhile, have both been backed by Google co-founder Larry Page.
Several other companies, including Aston Martin, have produced concepts to demonstrate that they plan to move with emerging transportation technology, wherever that may take them.
Beyond personal transportation, autonomous flying vehicles look set to play a huge part in logistics, both in the public sector and in military environments. The British Army, for example, recently announced a competition to test the viability of using autonomous vehicles to supply front-line troops.
Whatever the use-case, governments and aviation authorities all over the world will need to regulate flying vehicles, autonomous or not. The prospect of countless flying vehicles occupying our skies, a fascinating science-fiction vision though it may be, brings with it all kinds of environmental, safety and privacy concerns.