Electric helicopter-like shuttles could be coming to a city near you in 2020
Ride-sharing giant Uber could be bringing its high-flying uberAIR service to Sydney and Melbourne, as the company looks for 'launch cities' to trial its latest program.
Using electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs), uberAIR shuttles have space for up to four passengers along with "their personal bags and backpacks".
The eVTOLs feature four propellers that allow them to take off from the ground vertically, and a single rotor on the tail to propel them forwards.
Uber says early eVTOL vehicles will be piloted by humans, though the goal is "for these vehicles to be autonomous".
While the service is more or less in the concept stage at the moment, the company's vision is that uberAIR will taxi customers to their destination at 500 to 600 metres in the air, flying at speeds of around 240km/h.
Eventually, the service is projected to "cost as little as an uberX ride" – though we'd wager that's a long way off.
Uber has provided renderings of the 'Skyport' network it wants to build to facilitate the new air taxi service. The destinations in the images depict futuristic helipad-like stations positioned "on top of tall buildings at key points around the city".
The company has already signed a second Space Act with NASA and has partnered with the army for the project in the United States, with the first trials to kick off in 2020 ahead of a commercial launch scheduled for 2023.
Dallas, Texas, and Los Angeles, California, have been named as the launch cities for the uberAIR trial, and the company has announced it's looking for "an international city" as the third and final partner.
While it's a great concept, there will obviously be numerous steps Uber will need to make to have its new service legal in countries like Australia.
Speaking with CarAdvice, Peter Gibson, corporate communications manager for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), said: "There will be many safety issues to be addressed and CASA will make sure all relevant safety standards are met".
"Australia has a strong track record in aviation innovation and has been a world leader in commercial drones, so we are confident of meeting any challenges. This is an exciting new development and CASA will play a constructive role in protecting safety".
Gibson also mentioned that the uberAIR concept isn't far off what helicopters are doing today, so there shouldn't be too many steps required to have such a service in place in the near future – provided the vehicles are confirmed to be safe and reliable transport.
Considering the company wants to establish the pilot program in just two years, it will be very interesting to see how much can be achieved in such a short period of time.
Would you take a flying Uber?
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