The biggest news in aviation today is the announcement by Boeing and Airbus that they will be partnering to develop a new generation of commercial drone planes.
The drones are called the XWB (X-wing), and they will feature a smaller payload capacity and an upgraded autopilot system that will allow for faster, more precise flight.
The aircraft will be powered by a single GE Aviation engine and have an eight-foot wingspan.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Boeing said that it would be “very difficult” for an airline to operate drones at low altitudes without an experienced pilot.
“In order to operate at a range of altitudes with minimal risk, the X-wing will include new and enhanced avionics,” Boeing said.
“The XWB aircraft will feature four avionics, each providing for a range and capability enhancement.
The avionics suite includes new digital flight management, an advanced digital navigation system, a digital flight control, and digital flight data recorder.”
It will also include a “digital instrument panel” that will help the pilot maintain the aircraft’s position in the sky.
The new planes will also be able to fly in “high-altitude conditions.”
Boeing and the other partners have already been testing the aircraft in low-Earth orbit and they are looking to fly the XWBs at the end of this year.
The XWB is expected to be powered primarily by a GE Aviation Enermax 6500M jet engine, but will also have an 8-foot wing span.
“With the XWD’s enhanced autopilot, pilots will be able fly the aircraft at altitudes ranging from a few hundred feet to several thousand feet, making it an ideal option for high-altitudes, low-level missions,” Boeing explained.
For now, the planes will be sold to customers only, but the partners are working on making them available to the general public.