Uber is pushing ahead with plans to develop urban transportation solutions based on vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) “flying taxis” capable of autonomous operation. At a recent Uber Elevate summit event in Dallas, the company unveiled plans to deploy an initial fleet of electric-powered vehicles in Dubai and Dallas, Texas by 2020. The timeline corresponds with the World Expo 2020 in Dubai.
Uber announced that it was partnering with a variety of airframe specialists (Aurora Flight Sciences, Pipistrel, Bell Helicopter, Mooney and Embraer) to develop the vehicles, and the associated network of charging stations and vertiports. Uber also says it has started discussions with NASA and the National Air Traffic Control Association about airspace management issues. Uber will contribute its expertise in on-demand logistics.
Aurora says its eVTOL concept is derived from its XV-24A X-plane programme currently underway for the U.S. Department of Defense and other autonomous aircraft the company has developed over the years.
The company has adapted and combined the autonomous flight guidance system from its Centaur optionally piloted aircraft, the perception and collision avoidance system from the AACUS programme, and the battery electric propulsion system from the XV-24A demonstrator. Aurora says its concept was successfully test flown on 20th April.
Among the other partners, Brazil’s Embraer — via its Business Innovation Center based in Melbourne, Florida — is being tapped for its expertise in fly-by-wire technology, while Bell will work on technologies for short-distance urban operations. Pipistrel is a Slovenia-based manufacturer of small electric aircraft, while Mooney is teaming with Carter Aviation Technologies to explore a vehicle featuring the latter’s Slowed Rotor Compound (SRC) technology.