Boeing to Buy Aurora, an Autonomous and Electric Flight Firm

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On Thursday, Boeing Co announced that it would buy Aurora Flight Sciences Corp to improve its ability to develop electric-powered, autonomous, and long-flight-duration aircraft for its military and commercial businesses.

The acquisition could benefit Boeing with some projects, including drones that are produced by its Insitu unit, a new mid-market aircraft that is being considered by Boeing and attempts to fly prototype pilotless technology in 2018.

“The aerospace industry is going to be changing and the acquisition positions Boeing strategically for whatever that future may be,” said Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s Chief Technology Officer, on a conference call with reporters.

The deal could experience regulatory obstacles, but the company hopes to complete the purchase in 2017, said Hyslop.

The move of Boeing could help Zunum Aero, a Seattle-area company that is aiming to bring a hybrid-electric regional airliner to the market by 2022. JetBlue Airways Corp and Boeing and have both made venture capital investments in Zunum.

Boeing will maintain the Virginia-based Aurora, Manassas, as a separate unit reporting through Boeing’s engineering, test and technology division, which is overseen by Hyslop.

The terms of the deal were undisclosed.

In  2016, Aurora won a contract for more than $89 million (67.46 million pounds)for the vertical take-off and landing X-plane.

Aurora has produced, designed, and flown more than 30 unmanned air vehicles since its inception. It has also collaborated with Boeing on the rapid prototyping of innovative aircraft and structural assemblies for both commercial and military applications during the last decade.