Uber teams up with US Army and NASA to launch ‘UberAir’…flying taxi’s

By Jasmine Wing | @jasminenatashaw

Uber has partnered up with the US Army to fund and research the development of quiet rotor technology for vertical lift-off craft.

The announcement was made during Uber’s second annual Elevate conference, which is being held in Los Angeles. LA and Dallas are the two cities that have agreed to host early tests of Uber’s air taxi service.

Uber plans to carry out the first UberAir flight demonstrations in 2020, with commercial flights available by 2023.

It has already selected the first two locations for the Elevate project: Dallas-Fort Worth/Frisco Texas and Los Angeles.

Uber signed a second Space Act Agreement with NASA to develop models that will simulate urban air mobility service. Uber will provide NASA with details and data on its plans for a flying taxi service, which the agency will use to simulate flights over Dallas-Fort Worth. This data will address scenarios involving air traffic, collision mitigation, and air space management. It is NASA’s first such agreement related to urban air mobility (UAM) specifically focused on modeling and simulation.

‘Our first jointly-funded project will help us develop first of its kind rotor technology that will allow for quieter and more efficient travel,’ said Eric Allison, Head of Uber Elevate.

To bring uberAIR to market, we plan to partner with three ‘launch cities’. This will allow for a balance between focus and city diversity that will set the service up for long-term success. Dallas and Los Angeles were previously announced as the first two launch cities, and we are now seeking an international city as the third partner.

What is UberAir?

UberAir is a network of small, electric, aircraft that enable four-person ridesharing flights in densely populated areas.

The ‘electrical vertical take-off and landing vehicles’ (eVTOLs) differ from helicopters in that they are quieter, safer, more affordable, and more environmentally-friendly, Uber claims.

Users will order the aircraft through the Uber app much like they would one of the firm’s taxis.

Once they have selected an UberAIR ride, the craft will fly to the nearest ‘Skyport’ – a series of launch pads spread across the city.

Uber estimates that an all-electric, 200mph (320kph) ride across the skies of Los Angeles will be price-competitive with an UberX trip of the same distance.

Uber predicts that trips from LAX to the Staples Centre during rush hour can be reduced from up to 1 hour 20 minutes on the ground to less than 30 minutes using UberAir.

Its prediction includes UberX transfers to and from UberAir launch pads – the flight over LA itself will take around four minutes, the firm said.

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