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Boeing's Kendall Square building
An artist’s conception shows the Kendall Square building that will house the Boeing Aerospace and Autonomy Center in Cambridge, Mass. (Perkins + Will via PRNewsfoto / Boeing)

Boeing says it’ll be moving into a 100,000-square-foot research and lab space in Cambridge, Mass., that will focus on the design and development of autonomous aircraft.

Boeing’s Aerospace and Autonomy Center will house employees from Boeing and its recently acquired subsidiary, Aurora Flight Sciences, in a new 17-floor building in Cambridge. The agreement, announced today, makes Boeing the first major tenant of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kendall Square Initiative, which includes six sites slated for housing, retail, research and development, office space and academic facilities.

“Boeing is leading the development of new autonomous vehicles and future transportation systems that will bring flight closer to home,” Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s chief technology officer, said in a news release. “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.”

MIT said Boeing is expected to occupy the new space by the end of 2020. Employees from Aurora Flight Sciences’ existing R&D center in Kendall Square will move into the new center and operate it on Boeing’s behalf.

“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,” said John Langford, who is Aurora’s founder and CEO as well as an MIT alum.

The building at 314 Main Street in Cambridge will also house the MIT Museum and the MIT Press Bookstore as well as other retail, restaurant and commercial tenants.

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

Last year also brought Boeing’s acquisition of Aurora Flight Sciences, which is working on electric-powered autonomous vehicles, including one of the air taxis being considered for Uber’s aerial rideshare service.

Another Boeing subsidiary, Insitu, works on unmanned aircraft systems for military and civil application. Meanwhile, Boeing’s HorizonX venture arm has been investing in other ventures focusing on autonomous flight control, and the company is working on robotic cargo air vehicles as well as autonomous technologies for passenger jets..

Earlier this month, Boeing announced the creation of a new organization called Boeing NeXt to bring together researchers and projects across the company to shape the future of travel and transport, including a next-generation, blockchain-based air traffic management system for piloted and autonomous systems.

Boeing said employees at the Kendall Square center will help develop new technologies in support of Boeing NeXt programs.

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

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