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For Boeing, the future is now.
The aviation giant took two steps into the future by acquiring a flying car company and launching a hybrid-electric commuter aircraft. Boeing is buying Aurora Flight Sciences and funding Zunum Aero as it moves forward with evolving technologies in aviation.
It's an exciting time for the future of air travel -- especially for commuters and general counsel who are along for the ride.
Aurora Flight Sciences makes airplanes and components, but its cutting-edge design work got Boeing's attention. Aurora is already set to build a intra-city flying car for Uber, which hopes to launch the aircraft in 2020.
Ars Technica reports that Boeing is making the acquisition at a time when "the aviation industry appears to be on the verge of big technological shifts" in better batteries, motors, and software.
"One big shift is vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) aircraft," wrote Timothy B. Lee.
Uber wants to have VTOL airplanes taking off and landing in "vertiports" -- tiny airports within cities. With light and quiet electric motors, the planes can help commuters beat rush hour traffic.
Zunum Aero, backed by venture capital arms of Boeing and JetBlue, will build electric-powered commuter planes. They will seat up to 12 passengers, reduce travel time and cost less.
According to Reuters, Zunam's plans underscore "a rush to develop small electric aircraft based on rapidly evolving battery technology and artificial intelligence systems."
The company said it does not expect to be the first to certify electric-powered airplanes. However, Zunam is positioning itself to fill a gap in regional travel.
"We're getting airline pricing down on a small plane and doing it for short distances," said Matt Knapp, co-founder and chief aeronautic engineer of the company.