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Boeing To Develop Autonomous Aircraft Center In Kendall Square

An artist's rendering of 314 Main Street in Cambridge. The building will be home to a new Boeing research center -- called the Aerospace and Autonomy Center -- which will focus on developing autonomous aircraft technology. The Boeing center will also anchor MIT's $2 billion Kendall Square development project. (Courtesy Perkins + Will/MIT)MoreCloseclosemore
An artist's rendering of 314 Main Street in Cambridge. The building will be home to a new Boeing research center -- called the Aerospace and Autonomy Center -- which will focus on developing autonomous aircraft technology. The Boeing center will also anchor MIT's $2 billion Kendall Square development project. (Courtesy Perkins + Will/MIT)

Busy Kendall Square is getting a major new company.

Aerospace behemoth Boeing is moving into the tech hub as part of MIT's $2 billion development project — dubbed the Kendall Square Initiative — the university announced Wednesday.

The company will establish a research center focused on advancing autonomous aircraft technology, called the Aerospace and Autonomy Center. Boeing will anchor MIT's massive development, which will include six sites slated for housing, retail, office space, research and development, and outdoor space.

"What we get is a research partner, somebody who brings very interesting and important problems in the future transportation systems, that both engages our faculty and graduate students in cutting edge research but also provides valuable content that informs our teaching agenda," MIT Provost Marty Schmidt said in a phone interview.

Boeing will lease about 100,000 square feet in MIT’s building at 314 Main St., which is currently under construction. The company will take up four floors of the 17-floor building. The 400,000-square-foot building, located next to the MBTA Red Line, will also be home to the MIT Museum, the MIT Press Bookstore and commercial tenants.

With a facility in Kendall Square, Boeing hopes to tap into the area's tech and innovation scene.

"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," Boeing chief technology officer Greg Hyslop said in a statement.

The new Boeing center will focus on autonomous transportation, robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The facility builds on a longstanding relationship between Boeing and MIT. Earlier this year, Boeing helped fund an $18 million project to upgrade MIT's 80-year-old Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel. And last year, Boeing acquired MIT-founded Aurora Flight Sciences, which develops unmanned aircraft and has a research center in Kendall Square.

That research center will eventually fold into the new Boeing center, which will employ about 300 engineers and researchers.

John Langford, the CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, said the center aims to develop advanced technology for "small electric air taxis, vertical takeoff and landing vehicles that can operate in dense urban environments [and] autonomous cargo delivery systems that reduce the number of people required to manage the airspace."

The new center is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

A map of MIT's Kendall Square Initiative, a major development project that will include six sites slated for housing, retail, office space, research and development, and outdoor space. The project will cost $2 billion, according to MIT officials. (Courtesy: MITIMCO)
A map of MIT's Kendall Square Initiative, a major development project that will include six sites slated for housing, retail, office space, research and development, and outdoor space. The project will cost $2 billion, according to MIT officials. (Courtesy: MITIMCO)

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Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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