Boeing Aerospace & Autonomy Center to Focus on Designing, Building, Flying Autonomous Aircraft

Boeing to open 100,000 square foot research and development (R&D) facility in 2020.

Boeing MIT Kendall Square

Boeing (NYSE:BA) officials plan to open the new Boeing Aerospace & Autonomy Center in Cambridge, Mass., in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) new mixed-use district in Kendall Square, bringing together engineering teams from Boeing and subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences  to accelerate development of future mobility solutions.

Boeing and Aurora Flight Sciences engineers will focus on designing, building, and flying autonomous aircraft  and developing enabling technologies at Boeing’s new center, which is slated to open in 2020 and encompass 100,000 square feet of research and lab space inside a new 17-floor building at 314 Main Street in Cambridge.

Aurora Flight Sciences electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft

Investment in the new center follows Boeing’s creation of Boeing NeXt , a new organization that unites researchers and projects across the company to shape the future of travel and transport, including the development of a next-generation airspace management  system to enable the safe coexistence of piloted and autonomous vehicles. Employees at the center will help develop new technologies in support of Boeing NeXt programs.

Aurora's eVTOL aircraft will provide on-demand transportation to minimize long commutes due to heavy traffic and urbanization in populated areas. (Image courtesy Karen Dillon/Aurora Flight Sciences)

"Boeing is leading the development of new autonomous vehicles and future transportation systems that will bring flight closer to home," Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop says. "By investing in this new research facility, we are creating a hub where our engineers can collaborate with other Boeing engineers and research partners around the world and leverage the Cambridge innovation ecosystem."

Through its Kendall Square Initiative , MIT will develop six buildings to house a blend of lab and research, office, housing, and retail space.

"It's fitting that Boeing will join the Kendall/MIT innovation family," says MIT Provost Martin Schmidt. "Our research interests have been intertwined for over 100 years, and we've worked together to advance world-changing aerospace technologies and systems. MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics is the oldest program of its kind in the United States, and excels at its mission of developing new air transportation concepts, autonomous systems, and small satellites through an intensive focus on cutting-edge education and research. Boeing's presence will create an unprecedented opportunity for new synergies in this industry."

Employees from Aurora Flight Sciences' existing research and development center in Kendall Square will move into the new center and operate it on behalf of Boeing once complete.

"Today, Aurora's Kendall Square team is already building innovative autonomous systems," explains John Langford, Aurora Flight Sciences founder and chief executive officer, and MIT alumnus. "By expanding Aurora's 30-year relationship with MIT, and working with Boeing, we are creating a collaborative space where engineers, students, and researchers can work together to create technologies that will define the next-century of air mobility."

Financial terms of the new lease agreement and development of the new facility were not disclosed.

The new agreement builds on a century-long relationship between Boeing and MIT to advance aerospace innovation. Last year, the company announced its role as lead sponsor of an $18 million project to replace MIT's Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel.

Boeing is the lead donor in the replacement of MIT's 79-year-old Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel with a new Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel, expected to be the largest and most advanced academic wind tunnel in the U.S.

An $18 million project, the new tunnel will be operated by the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and designated as “The Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel -- a Gift of the Boeing Company”.

The new tunnel will be constructed on the site of the current tunnel, which was dedicated in September 1938. From its early days during World War II, when technicians worked around the clock designing military aircraft, testing in the tunnel has branched out to include ground antenna configurations, ski gear, space suits, wind turbines, ship sails, and most recently, a design for clean, quiet, and super-efficient commercial aircraft.

Aurora Flight Sciences develops and manufactures advanced unmanned systems and aerospace vehicles.

Aurora Flight Sciences, A Boeing Company, is a technology company striving to create smarter aircraft through the development of versatile and intuitive autonomous systems. Operating at the intersection of technology and robotic aviation, Aurora leverages the power of autonomy to make manned and unmanned flight safer and more efficient.

Headquartered in Manassas, Virginia, Aurora has more than 550 employees and operates in six locations, including research and development centers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Luzern, Switzerland; manufacturing facilities in Bridgeport, West Virginia, and Columbus, Mississippi; and offices in Dayton, Ohio, and Mountain View, California.

Boeing is a leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and defense, space, and security systems. A top U.S. exporter, the company supports airlines and U.S. and allied government customers in more than 150 countries. Boeing products and tailored services include commercial and military aircraft, satellites, weapons, electronic and defense systems, launch systems, advanced information and communication systems, and performance-based logistics and training.

Courtney E. Howard  is editorial director and content strategist at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group. Contact her by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..