Boeing to buy autonomous and electric flight firm Aurora

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Boeing Co BA.N said on Thursday it would buy Aurora Flight Sciences Corp to advance its ability to develop autonomous, electric-powered and long-flight-duration aircraft for its commercial and military businesses.

The acquisition could help Boeing with a number of projects, including drones produced by its Insitu unit, a new mid-market aircraft that Boeing is considering and efforts to fly prototype pilotless technology next year.

“The aerospace industry is going to be changing” and the acquisition positions Boeing strategically “for whatever that future may be,” Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop said on a conference call with reporters.

The deal could face regulatory obstacles, but the company hopes to complete the purchase this year, Hyslop said.

Boeing's move could help Zunum Aero, a Seattle-area company aiming to bring a hybrid-electric regional airliner to market in 2022. Boeing and JetBlue Airways Corp JBLU.O have both made venture capital investments in Zunum.

Boeing will maintain Manassas, Virginia-based Aurora as a separate unit reporting through Boeing’s engineering, test and technology division, which is headed by Hyslop.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Last year, Aurora won a contract for more than $89 million for the vertical take off and landing X-plane.

Aurora has designed, produced and flown more than 30 unmanned air vehicles since its inception and has collaborated with Boeing on the rapid prototyping of innovative aircraft and structural assemblies for both military and commercial applications during the last decade.

Additional reporting by Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Bill Rigby