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Boeing's flying taxi lifts off in first flight, bringing Uber Air closer to reality

First look at Uber's air taxi model

An autonomous passenger air vehicle built by Boeing flew for the first time, the aerospace giant said Wednesday.

Boeing is among the companies vying for a stake in the future business of package-carrying drones and self-flying vehicles, with Airbus and Intel also testing flying vehicles and companies like Uber drafting business models for air taxi services. 

The electrically powered prototype lifted off and landed in vertical fashion on Tuesday in Manassas, Virginia, Boeing said in a news release. The 30-feet-long and 28-feet-wide prototype will move next to forward-flight mode, to be tested in future flights, the Chicago-based plane maker said.

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Test flight of autonomous passenger air vehicle prototype Boeing

"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 urban air mobility unit, Boeing NeXt, assigned Aurora Flight Sciences to develop the prototype. Boeing last year purchased Aurora, which is developing a flying taxi with Uber Technologies.

Uber also cheered the maiden flight, saying it is working with Dallas-Forth Worth and Los Angeles as part of its plan to deploy air taxis commercially in both cities by 2023. 

OUR FIRST FLIGHT: Boeing’s Passenger Air Vehicle by Boeing on YouTube

"Aurora is now officially first in flight for Uber," Eric Allison, head of Uber's Elevate initiative, said in a statement. "Today's test is an important first milestone and we look forward to more progress."

As envisioned by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber Air will have passengers calling for a lift, then heading to rooftop sky ports where the aircraft take off. "We think cities are going to go vertical in terms of transportation and we want to make that a reality," he told CBS News in May.

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Test flight of autonomous passenger air vehicle Boeing

While not specifying a project with Uber, Boeing called its work part of an effort to "advance the safety and reliability of on-demand autonomous air transportation."

As John Langford, Aurora's president and CEO put it: "This is what revolution looks like, and it's because of autonomy. Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible."