Uber is planning to take to the skies in sleek, all-electric flying drone taxi, the company revealed on Tuesday.
"Achieving ultra-low noise is one of the critical obstacles" to deploying aerial taxis in urban areas, Rob McDonald, head of vehicle engineering for Uber Elevate, the company's flying auto operation, said in an interview.
Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles are the first US metropolitan areas scheduled to have the vehicles lifting off from area skyports, perhaps as early as 2020. Uber say its flying taxis will be able to fly between San Francisco and San Jose, California in just fifteen minutes-a trip that takes almost two hours by vehicle in rush-hour traffic.
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Uber envisages its air taxis picking up passengers at skyports on top of buildings or stations on the ground.
"The new Space Act agreement broadening Uber's partnership with NASA is exciting, because it allows us to combine Uber's massive-scale engineering expertise with NASA's decades of subject matter experience across multiple domains that are key to enabling urban air mobility, starting with airspace systems", said Jeff Holden, Uber's chief product officer. At the back of the aircraft, a forward-facing propeller would provide power for horizontal flight. Uber also has other partners in developing the systems and technology for electric VTOL vehicles, which take off and land like helicopters, and are being touted as an answer to traffic congestion on land. "Finally, point of entry into the eCRMs is limited to one side, simplifying ground crew operations and reducing confusion for riders when they approach their eVTOL vehicle". Passengers will sit in the middle of the aircraft and up front, and a pilot will carry the passengers (up to a maximum of four) to their destinations.
Wired said the vehicles will cruise at speeds between 150 and 200 miles per hour at up to 2,000 feet. In DFW, the company is working with Hillwood Properties to build vertical skyports and also has called upon Fort Worth-based Bell to develop the vehicles. The aircraft would operate on Uber's own network.