Uber has declared that by 2020 they plan to have a network of ‘flying cars’ in Dallas and Dubai. The new service will be called Uber Air. With Uber Air people will be able to order flying taxis in the same way users of the current Uber app can order car rides. This sounds fantastic and happening so soon! However, during the Uber Elevate summit of April 25-27 2017 in Texas Uber’s chief product officer Jeff Holden admitted that Uber is rushing the Uber Air initiative. Uber Air will consist of electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Although these eVTOL aircraft seem to be a promising concept, the technologies needed are not yet fully developed. The eVTOL aircraft are envisioned to be fully electric with zero-emissions, autonomous and near-silent. It looks like this vision might take several more years to become a reality and 2020 is not a realistic goal.
Aurora’s eVTOL aircraft prototype. Source: http://www.flyingmag.com/
One thing that can be said for sure is that Uber Air is a very appealing vision which has raised a lot of interest from multiple companies. Uber has partnered amongst others with NASA, Pipistrel, Bell helicopter and most recently Aurora Flight Services. These partnerships will certainly help Uber reach its futuristic goal. During the Uber Elevate Summit Aurora Flight Services unveiled their own eVTOL aircraft prototype. The CEO of Aurora claims that Aurora is well positioned to deliver the low noise, high reliable, and low cost eVTOL aircraft based on nearly 30 years of successful autonomy and robotic programs. On April 20th 2017 the first test flight of Aurora’s eVTOL aircraft took place and according to the company it was a success. Aurora aims to deliver 50 eVTOL aircraft for Uber Air by 2020. This sounds promising and we will have to wait and see if Aurora can help Uber Air to actually make it happen in 2020.