Boeing forms venture group, invests in two tech startups


Zunum Aero is designing and building 10- to 50-seat planes for trips of 700 miles initially and as much as 1,000 miles by 2030.

The plan is to cut overall travel times with more efficient flying and a streamlined boarding process.

Boeing has launched a new venture fund that will invest in aerospace technology, innovations in manufacturing, and cutting-edge business models. "We're looking at traditional, non-traditional partnerships that help us accelerate innovation and market opportunities".

HorizonX will operate as part of Smith's team and work in alignment with Boeing's engineering, test and technology group under Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop.

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Boeing HorizonX is led by Steve Nordlund, who takes this role after serving as vice president of strategy for Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

Boeing said the HorizonX group, which will be part of Boeing's corporate development and strategy organization, will have three focus areas: "making targeted investments in new ventures and startups; seeking unique business opportunities for the company's aerospace technology; and assessing disruptive innovations and business strategies". HorizonX is also meant to support a major global services business unit that Boeing will be launching later this year. A complete set of standards for electric aircraft are expected by 2018, and the first electrics are likely to certify in 2020, in time for the first Zunum aircraft to roll off a production line.

With multiple patented technologies already in place, Zunum Aero has designed an innovative class of hybrid-electric aircraft and is developing technologies to create a regional electric air network.

"We believe that, just like Tesla is disrupting the auto industry, electric propulsion will disrupt the regional airline industry", Bonny Simi, president of JetBlue Technology Ventures, said in an interview, referring to carmaker Tesla Inc.

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"Boeing HorizonX is investing in Zunum because we feel its technology development is leading this emerging and exciting hybrid-electric market space".

Commercial aviation is focused on about 150 larger US airports, said Simi, who oversees the JetBlue subsidiary started in February 2016.

The planes are created to provide more direct and efficient service to the nation's smaller and regional airports. Even with the hybrid tech, the planes will result in 80 percent decreased emissions vs. purely gas powered regional jets, with the ultimate aim of working on 100 percent battery power with zero emissions once battery density capability catches up.

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