Flying taxis by 2020? Uber thinks so

The small aircraft will have seats for two to four passengers plus a pilot, with the eventual goal to go fully autonomous.

By Mary Grady 03/06/2017

Leaders at Uber, the popular ride-share network, are looking to the future, and they see a world where flying taxis solve our urban transit problems. Earlier this year, the company hired Mark Moore, a longtime NASA engineer with a focus on new aviation technology, to lead that effort, and in April, Moore hosted the first-ever Uber Elevate Summit.

The three-day affair brought together 72 industry experts to hash out ideas toward creating a viable urban transit network using small aircraft that can take off and land vertically.

The company made a commitment to work on two demonstration projects that it says will be up and running by 2020 — one in Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas, and one in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Both projects will leverage local partnerships with real-estate companies to create rooftop landing pads that can provide air-taxi service to nearby destinations.

The small aircraft will have seats for two to four passengers plus a pilot — at least, at first. Uber's vision includes eventually to provide fully autonomous aircraft, which will be watched over by a remote operator who could take over control if needed.

Moore laid out the challenges ahead to make the vision into reality — the aircraft need to be quiet, to avoid annoying neighbours in densely populated cities; they need to be safe, reliable, and efficient; and preferably they will be powered by batteries, to be emissions-free.

They should cruise at 240km/h, and be capable of flying at least 100 kilometres nonstop. Is the vision achievable? 2020 is not that far away — we'll have to wait and see. (


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