Uber will partner with Aurora Flight Sciences and others on its ambitious flying taxi project.
Uber will use electric, flying taxis built by partners for its Uber Elevate ride-hailing service that will make its debut in Dallas-Forth Worth and Dubai in 2020, Uber announced during a conference in Dallas.
Uber is also partnering with Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, Mooney, and Bell Helicopter to build the electric aircrafts.
Aurora Flight Sciences is an aviation and aeronautics research company specializing in the design of unmanned aircrafts. The company unveiled its concept for Uber’s flying taxi service, which is based on the X-plane it’s building for the U.S. Department of Defense, in a YouTube video Tuesday.
That X-Plane, dubbed the XV-24A and funded by DARPA, completed a flight test program in Webster Outlying Field in Southern Maryland in early March. The Vertical Take-Off Landing (VTOL) aircraft is being developed to achieve a two-fold speed increase over helicopters.
Like the VTOL name implies, the XV-24A does not need a runway to take off. The vehicle is a hybrid and relies on 24 ducted fans driven by electric motors to hover.
“The Uber Elevate mission is all about low noise, high reliability, and low cost,” Aurora CEO John Langford wrote in a press release. “By drawing on our nearly 30 years of successful autonomy and robotic programs, Aurora is well positioned to deliver on this urban solution. We have already built and flown the first proof-of-concept aircraft and we’re excited to partner with Uber in accelerating the eVTOL initiative.”
Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product officer, said the VTOL aircrafts will be piloted when they make their debut in 2020, but will ultimately achieve full autonomy later on.
Although Uber won’t play a role in building the VTOL aircrafts, it will design the UberAir app that will allow users to book a flight at a nearby landing pad. They could then take and UberX or UberPOOL to the VTOL landing site, Holden said.