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Uber Announces Advances with Air Taxis

Uber Air Taxi Skyport

As it works to make air taxis a reality (much!) sooner than most people expect, Uber announced advances in its Uber Elevate program at the Elevate Summit in Washington, D.C.

Testing and Takeoff in 2020 and 2023

Uber Elevate has selected real estate developer Related Companies to design skyports for its air taxi offering. Related’s 240-acre development in Santa Clara, Calif., will serve as a testing ground and development environment for Uber Air’s electric flying vehicles.

The site, planned along a major ground transportation artery, will enable five eVTOLs to charge at the same time and allow for simultaneous departures and arrivals.

Costs for rides would be in line with an UberX trip of the same distance. The lessons learned will be applied to the first of Uber Air’s two planned U.S. operational cities, Dallas-Ft. Worth/Frisco, Texas, and Los Angeles.

Flight demonstrations are planned for 2020 with commercial operations expected to begin in 2023.

“Pushing a button and getting a flight is much closer than you think,” said Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate. The plan includes “new skyports, new air taxi cabins, new aircraft models and much more. Elevate is Uber’s vision to take transportation off of the 2D grid and move ridesharing into the sky with all electric air taxis that are green, quiet and safe.”

Communications Are Key for Air Taxis

With an eye toward using the advanced connectivity capabilities of 5G, Uber partnered with AT&T to optimize radio access networks, data analysis, drones, and hardware design. Uber will look to carry the load in developing and managing airspace management, ridesharing software, and flight operations.

The company selected 16 designs from eight firms for skyports. The finalists include new construction and retrofitting existing structures. Some of those designs might be used in Melbourne, Australia, Uber’s international partner. As an Uber Air pilot city following the same timetable as its U.S. partners, Melbourne expects demonstrations beginning in 2020 and air taxi services in 2023.

Australian partners, Macquarie, Telstra, Scentre Group, and Melbourne Airport, will provide the infrastructure and telecommunications key to operating an urban aviation network.

Pipistrel, Karem Aircraft, Bell, Jaunt, and Aurora (a Boeing subsidiary) showcased their latest VTOL models at Uber Elevate, along with a model cabin interior from Uber.


Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke is a California-based writer who is fascinated by the way technology changes our lives.