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Main article: Boeing

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 15

Autonomous delivery drone startup Matternet raises $16 million round led by Boeing’s venture arm

14:30 | 26 June

Because autonomous delivery drones are undoubtedly coming, Boeing HorizonX Ventures, the aviation company’s venture arm, led a $16 million round in drone startup Matternet . Other investors include Swiss Post, Sony Innovation Fund and Levitate Capital. With this funding, Matternet’s plan is to further expand throughout the U.S. and internationally in urban environments.

“Matternet’s technology and proven track record make the development of a safe, global autonomous air mobility system a near-term reality,” Boeing HorizonX Ventures Managing Director Brian Schettler said in a statement. “Between the company’s success in Switzerland and being selected by the FAA to test unmanned aerial networks in the U.S., we are excited to work together to reimagine how the world connects and shape the next generation of transportation solutions.”

Just last month, the Federal Aviation Administration selected, among others, Matternet for drone logistics operations for U.S. hospitals as part of its Unmanned Aircraft System pilot program. In 2015, Matternet started testing the first drone delivery system in Zurich, Switzerland to transport blood and pathology samples to labs.

Matternet has since expanded its operations in Switzerland, and has conducted more than 1,700 flights over densely populated areas to make more than 850 deliveries of patient samples.



Boeing reportedly hit by Wannacry ransomware

01:49 | 29 March

Boeing has reportedly been struck in a major way by Wannacry, the ransomware that spread like wildfire last year. The Seattle Times obtained a memo from Mike VanderWel, of the company’s commercial airliner division, describing the malware as “metastasizing rapidly.”

Wannacry, you may remember, spread using a Windows exploit leaked from NSA files, demanded a modest sum in bitcoin to decrypt the victim’s files, and was stopped in dramatic fashion by a single person. Investigators confidently but, as with most attacks like this, circumstantially attributed the attacks to North Korea.

VanderWel’s memo says that the infection appears to have started in North Charleston, and for all we know is still spreading: “I just heard 777 (automated spar assembly tools) may have gone down,” he writes, and “airplane software,” whatever that term really means inside a company that makes airplanes, could be next.

Although the attacks may have originated in North Korea and Boeing is of course a major defense contractor, it would be premature to connect those dots at this moment. Wannacry was far from a targeted strike; it was “indiscriminately reckless,” as one U.S. official rather redundantly put it, spreading geometrically and affecting soft targets like hospitals as well as individuals.

Wannacry’s initial flare-up may have been tamped down, but clearly it was not eliminated altogether — though this may very well be a mutation or modified version of the original software.

This story is developing. We’ve contacted Boeing for more information and have been told to expect it momentarily, so check back soon.



Boeing’s prototype drone can carry 500 lbs of cargo

20:17 | 11 January

Boeing just revealed a prototype drone capable of carrying much more than a camera. The company tasked engineers with designing and building a cargo drone and the prototype they came up with is able to haul 500 lbs of goods.

The vehicle is huge and much larger than anything DJI sells. It weighs 747 pounds and is 15 feet long, 18 feet wide and 4 feet tall. Four arms hold two props each. It took Boeing engineers three months to design and construct the prototype, which just completed a test run in Boeing’s research lab in Missouri.

“This flying cargo air vehicle represents another major step in our Boeing eVTOL strategy,” said Boeing chief technology officer Greg Hyslop in a statement. “We have an opportunity to really change air travel and transport, and we’ll look back on this day as a major step in that journey.”

The company did not release official flight capabilities including range or speed. Those will come in time and chances are this vehicle will never be produced but used as a test bed for technologies that will lead to cargo and vehicle drones.



Aurora Flight Sciences demonstrates a fully autonomous helicopter in action

20:36 | 13 December

Aurora Flight Sciences is a company working on making full-scale autonomous combat craft a reality, and now some of its work is ready for prime time. The company showed off an autonomous helicopter created to demonstrate its Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System contribution for the Office of Naval Research’s ongoing work in the field, and it successfully navigated a UH-1H helicopter from start to finish through a mission in which it’s loaded up by Marines and then navigates through the air to another who makes the request for supplies on a tablet – kind of like ordering an Uber.

The autonomous piloting system is deigned to be aircraft-agnostic (for vertical take-off and landing vehicles, specifically), meaning it’ll work with vehicles other than the UH-1H light transport helicopter used here. The aircraft is equipped with additional hardware and software including LiDAR and camera sensors for obstacle avoidance and route-planning, but is otherwise a stock version of the vehicle.

This demo from Aurora (which is in the process of being acquired by Boeing to help boost that aerospace company’s autonomous efforts) marks the end of its AACUS program contributions, and work on the systems will now be handed over to the U.S. Marine Corps for additional experiments and potential implementation, the company notes.



Boeing to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences in bet on autonomous flight

16:21 | 5 October

Boeing is acquiring Aurora Flight Sciences, a company that focuses on autonomous flight systems designed to make robot aircraft and vehicles a reality. Boeing says that its acquisition of Aurora will help it push forward its efforts around self-flying vehicle development, for both military and commercial use.

Aurora Flight Sciences has been developing its LightningStrike XV-24A vertical take-off and landing craft, an autonomous military aircraft that is being funded by DARPA and the USAF. Earlier this year, Aurora ran a successful test flight program for its XV-24A Demonstrator, a subscale version of the eventual production vehicle.

Once the acquisition goes through, Aurora will continue to operate as its own independent subsidiary of Boeing, and will continue its work on designing and producing autonomous aircraft. In addition to the XV-24A, Aurora has designed and flown over 30 pilot-free vehicles during its nearly 20 years in operation.

Boeing isn’t the only major aerospace company making big bets on VTOLs – Airbus revealed this week that it’s still on track to start testing its first electric flying cars beginning next year, on a path to what it hopes will eventually be deploying of autonomous aerial taxi vehicles.



NASA launches satellite to relay data from Hubble, ISS and other spacecraft

17:54 | 18 August

NASA launched a new satellite on Friday morning, aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral. The launch occurred at just before 8:30 AM ET, after a brief delay from its original planned launch due to a minor technical issue with the booster that was promptly corrected by the launch team.

The satellite, TDSRS-M, will make its way to orbit and then add its capabilities to the existing TDRS constellation, which includes nine other satellites. The role of these geosynchronous spacecraft is to provide data back to Earth from the Hubble space telescope, the International Space Station, and a range of other spacecraft set out on exploratory missions in relatively close proximity to Earth. The expanding constellation is now better able to provide a near-continuous stream of data from those craft to Earth-based research and observation facilities.

This new addition to the network will also help extend the mission, allowing communications through the id-2020s, according to NASA, and it’ll spend the next three to four months becoming operational. This satellite was built by Boeing, as have all of the most recent TDRS constellation members.



NASA seeks to build a quieter supersonic plane for passenger flight

20:21 | 24 July

NASA has designed a supersonic plane that it hopes will help reduce flight time for international travelers, and its design is intended to reduce the noise of the jet to well below that of the Concorde.

Starting in August, Bloomberg reports, NASA will seek bids from aircraft manufacturers to bring their design to life with a full-scale mode, with a budget of nearly $400 million from the space agency to commit to the project over the next five years.

The plan is to create a commercially viable aircraft that can help address the growing demand for high-speed air transit, which is encouraged by trends like distributed workforces and international corporate conglomerates. It’s something that NASA hopes to eventually share with airplane OEMs, including Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing and even smaller startups already working on addressing the same market, including Colorado’s Boom Supersonic.

When I spoke to Boom CEO Blake Scholl earlier this year, he confirmed that one of their challenges coming to market would be reducing the noise of the engine used in their final plane, which is partly responsible for regulations that prevent supersonic flight over land in the U.S. Boom’s initial routes are all cross-ocean, so that it can work on addressing those regulations (in place since the Concorde’s active years) before adding other routes.

NASA’s design was made in part by Lockheed (whose concept craft design is depicted above), and it is targeting sound levels equivalent to what you’d hear while driving a luxury car on the highway, Bloomberg reports, or around 60 to 65 decibels, compared to the Concorde’s 90 decibels.

Ultimately, NASA hopes the contract will result in live vehicle tests over populated communities by 2022, which should give it ammunition for changing applicable regulations. Boom hopes to test fly their own demonstration craft starting sometime next year, so now it looks like there will be some spirited competition in this long-dormant area of transportation tech over the next decade.

Featured Image: Lockheed Martin



Crunch Report | Jay Z Is Planning a VC Fund

07:04 | 22 February

Today’s Stories 

  1. After data breaches, Verizon knocks $350M off Yahoo sale, now valued at $4.48B
  2. Jay Z is planning a VC fund. Here’s how his investments are doing
  3. Uber’s Travis Kalanick details independent investigation regarding sexual harassment
  4. Boeing wants to turn satellites into a cheaper, highly-automated business
  5. Skurt has raised a $10M Series A to grow its rental car delivery service


Written by: Tito Hamze, John Mannes
Hosted and edited by: Tito Hamze
Filmed & Graphics by: Joe Zolnoski
Teleprompter: Joe Zolnoski


  • I don’t know what to wear on Crunch Report (It’s a hard decision and I suck at dressing myself). If you are a startup and want to me to wear something mail me an XL T-shirt and I’ll wear it in an episode. I’m not going to mention the company on the shirt in the episode but it will be there. No offensive stuff, it’s totally at my discretion if I wear it. Mail it to me. Thanks <3 Ok, bye.

TechCrunch C/O Tito Hamze
410 Townsend street
Suite 100
San Francisco Ca. 94107



Boeing wants to turn satellites into a cheaper, highly-automated business

23:01 | 21 February

Aerospace company Boeing is in the process of changing the way satellites are built and made operational, according to the Wall Street Journal, with an eye toward automating much of the process and making it easier to ramp production while also increasing overall efficiency. Boeing’s efforts reflect the general transformation of the private space industry, driven by pressure put on incumbents by new entrants with a more nimble approach to getting the job done, including SpaceX, and nanosatellite startups like Planet and Kepler Communications.

For a long time (basically since the advent of the private space industry, in fact) the rarefied atmosphere occupied by private contractors like Boeing has not been very crowded, and has proven a place for the companies that do exist to make lots of money out of lucrative government contract that span multiple years and have big built-in margins. But pressure from smaller players like SpaceX, which drastically undercuts Boeing on the cost of rocket launches, has meant the legacy operators need to rethink how they do business.

Boeing’s satellite business lead Paul Rusnock told the WSJ that his company is now talking measures like employing more 3D printing wherever possible, and sampling the designs of the satellites themselves so they require fewer moving parts in order to minimize error rates and speed up production.

Like rockets, satellites have, until now, been largely dependent on specialized, one-off parts that are expensive and time-consuming to produce. Use of more standard, cross-purpose and modular satellite components is driving new efficiencies in production and reducing overall cost and time. The WSJ also notes hat there’s a lot that can be done with simulated testing, and self-check protocols run by satellite themselves that replace previous costly efforts to achieve the same results.

With upstart providers offering cost of construction for new satellites that run at roughly 1/100th the price of what Boeing has traditionally charged, and production cycles that can create new ones in a small fraction of the time the being providers have typically needed, it’s likely necessity more than anything else that has pushed Boeing to rethink how it approaches the industry. But it’s good to see smaller players having an outsized impact on pushing the industry forward in general.

Featured Image: Wesley Nitsckie/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE



The International Space Station is getting its first commercial airlock, planned for 2019

20:42 | 6 February

The International Space Station will get a first commercially funded airlock, created by supplier NanoRacks in partnership with Boeing, with a planned launch and integration timeframe of 2019. The commercial airlock is designed to support deployment of small payloads, including so-called CubeSats (which are small, cost-effective satellites) from the ISS, a practice which has become increasingly popular among commercial space companies.

NASA has always articulated a strong desire to open up the ISS to more low-Earth commerce, with hopes of increasingly privatizing the sustained operation to open up alternate funding sources for ongoing space-based research and scientific pursuits. The airlock will help support that, both via station-based satellite launches, and by allowing commercial payloads to be delivered to the ISS via commercial space transport operators including Boeing and SpaceX.

This stage of development involves NASA accepting the proposal NanoRacks has created, using an independent partnership with Boeing to begin development of its airlock. The airlock production will have to go through a series of phases as outlined by an agreement signed by NASA and NanoRacks as a preliminary step ahead of development late last year, and then if all goes according to plan the intent is to launch the airlock on an ISS resupply mission currently slated for 2019.

Boeing will fabricate the pressurization connection hardware for the airlock, and the whole array is designed to be modular and reusable, in case the ISS is replaced with another commercial orbiting platform in the future and NanoRacks would like to attach its module to that station instead.

Low-Earth orbit could become an increasingly lucrative place to operate for private companies, and funding and owning a key piece of the puzzle for missions in that part of space like an airlock is a good way to grab some early real estate in this emerging market.


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