Boeing invests in autonomous flight technology maker Near Earth Autonomy

The companies will additionally explore the development and application of products in areas such as urban mobility.

Boeing's venture capital unit HorizonX is continuing its investment in autonomous technologies, recently backing Near Earth Autonomy, a Pittsburgh-based company that develops technologies to enable safe and reliable autonomous flights.

The aerospace giant announced the investment on Thursday, but did not disclose the amount it has invested in the company.

Near Earth Autonomy, which was spun out of Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, develops software and sensor technology for three-dimensional mapping and survey, motion planning, and landing zone assessment, among others. Its products are aimed at enabling aircraft to operate autonomously.

According to a Washington Post report, the company has developed self-piloting surveillance drones that can navigate underground pathways, and is exploring ways for autonomous planes to navigate without reliance on GPS satellites.

The company is additionally exploring commercial applications for its autonomous flight technology, the report states.

Moving forward, Boeing and Near Earth Autonomy will partner on urban mobility projects.

"This partnership will accelerate technology solutions that we feel will be key to unlocking emerging markets of autonomous flight," Steve Nordlund, Boeing HorizonX vice president, said in a statement.

In April, Boeing, alongside JetBlue Airways, invested an undisclosed amount in Zunum Aero, a Kirkland, Washington-based startup that is developing short-haul electric aircraft to sell to major carriers for service on frequently travelled regional routes such as Boston to Washington DC, and San Francisco to Los Angeles.

At the time, the three-year-old startup said it was amidst building an aircraft that can accommodate 10 to 50 passengers as well as travel up to 700 miles initially, and as much as 1,000 miles by 2030.

Earlier this month, Boeing announced its intention to acquire Manassas, Virginia-based Aurora Flight Sciences Corp to help it advance the development of autonomous, electric-powered aircraft that can fly for extended periods of time.

Aurora had previously collaborated with Boeing aircraft for military and commercial applications -- and recently said it was working with embattled ride-hailing company Uber to create and test out a network of about 50 aerial taxis for passengers to hire by 2020.

The companies said in August it had conducted one successful test flight and plan to run trials in both Dallas and Dubai.

HorizonX, which was launched in April, had additionally invested an undisclosed amount in Upskill, a Washington-based startup that provides software for industrial augmented reality wearables. Its technology aims to boost productivity for manufacturers, field services, and logistics companies.

Boeing has used Upskill's software, Skylight, to reduce production time by 25 percent for technicians installing 130 miles of wiring in the company's 747-8 jumbo jets.

Boeing's VC unit has three focus areas: Investing in new ventures, identifying business opportunities for the company's aerospace capabilities, and assessing innovations such as autonomy, artificial intelligence, and additive manufacturing.

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