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A new unmanned vehicle prototype from Boeing could revolutionize air cargo. Photo via Boeing video screenshot

Boeing may be best known for big jetliners like 737 or 777. But check out this little 15-foot long aircraft that the giant aerospace company unveiled today — an unmanned electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing cargo vehicle that’s designed to carry up to 500 pounds.

Boeing said in the press release announcing the prototype — which features eight counter rotating blades that allow it to take off and land vertically — that it will be used to test future iterations of the company’s autonomous vehicle technology.

“This flying cargo air vehicle represents another major step in our Boeing eVTOL strategy,” said Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop. “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.”

In a video announcing the prototype, Boeing’s David Neely of the company’s R&D group said the goal is to extend the range and payload of the prototype so that it could deliver 250 to 500 pounds over a 10-mile to 20-mile radius. If that occurs, Neely said you can “change the way that the world connects, and change the way that we deliver goods.”

Boeing engineers built the 747-pound prototype in less than three months, and it recently completed test flights at Boeing Research & Technology’s Collaborative Autonomous Systems Laboratory in Missouri.

Autonomous vehicles like the one Boeing touted today could play a big role in the future of logistics and delivery, as evidenced by Amazon’s own interest in building its own fleet of drones that could deliver packages to homeowners or businesses. Amazon has been filing a number of patents around technology for autonomous vehicles, also known as drones.

“Our new CAV prototype builds on Boeing’s existing unmanned systems capabilities and presents new possibilities for autonomous cargo delivery, logistics and other transportation applications,” said Steve Nordlund, Boeing HorizonX vice president, in a release. “The safe integration of unmanned aerial systems is vital to unlocking their full potential. Boeing has an unmatched track record, regulatory know-how and systematic approach to deliver solutions that will shape the future of autonomous flight.”

You can see more on Boeing’s new prototype here:

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