NASA teams up with Uber to map the skies of the future

Gladys Abbott
May 12, 2018

Uber revealed its plans to take the skies with new aircraft concepts while announcing new partnerships at its ongoing 2nd Annual Elevate Summit. While the CEO said he'd joined Uber a year ago as a sceptic of the flying vehicle programme, he eventually chose to support the futuristic endeavour.

Uber presented its eCRM-003 aircraft design, a conceptual rendering the company said was meant to stimulate new ideas and discussion among aircraft manufacturers. Airbus is also a competitor.

At this year's summit, Uber unveiled yet another flying auto concept, this one being a four-passenger vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) fixed-wing aircraft, with vertical rotors fixed to those wings, giving an overall design that's not dissimilar to the quadcopters that have become popular in recent years.

With a host of connectivity technologies, including wifi, artificial intelligence, video calling, and wireless charging, the vehicle has been described by its creators as a cross between a traditional helicopter, a light aircraft and a passenger-carrying drone. Uber expects the airborne taxi service will cost the same as an Uber Black over the same distance but once the service has enough passengers, it will decrease to UberX rates for the same trip.

The deal - the second partnership between the two - will see Nasa help to build realistic simulations of flying taxis during busy air traffic, with the aim of creating computer models of aircraft flying through Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in Texas. As reported by Fast Company, one of these was an all-electric multi-rotor aircraft that uses stacked rotors to lift off vertically, but can travel at more than 300 km/h (186 mph) thanks to an airplane-like body. According to the announcement the company is working on launching "world's first urban aviation network".

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Pipistrel is an aircraft designer and Uber Elevate partner.

Talk of flying cars - which are many years away from moving around actual customers, if ever - offered a diversion from Uber's embattled autonomous-car programme.

Uber hopes to be testing these vehicles by 2020, with rides available for actual passengers in 2023.

Uber introduced its plan for flying taxis in 2016 (The Verge) and says it will launch demonstrator flights in 2020.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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