Uber has announced plans to start testing their UberAir flying car service in US cities like Los Angeles and Dallas in 2020, according to LA Times. To make this into a reality, NASA partnered with Uber to manage air traffic management. Similar technology is currently going through a five year testing period in Dubai. This means that flying drone taxis may start making regular trips in the US sooner than other cities.
UberAir “Closer Than You Think”
Traffic congested cities like Los Angeles will be one of the first cities to experience the benefits of UberAir. Much like a cross between a helicopter and a fixed-wing plane, UberAir will take-off like a quadcopter and fly like a mini plane. The electrically powered, Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVOTL) vehicle will have zero operational emissions. By utilizing areas like the tops of parking garages, helipads and open lands near highways, UberAir is seen as a cost effective solution that will utilize existing infrastructures as launch sites.
Uber’s Drone Taxi
Initially, UberAir will have a pilot to operate the aircraft, but Uber has plans to develop UberAir into a self-driving vehicle, according to LA Times. This move will eventually reduce transportation costs to the price of an UberX car ride.
NASA & UberAir
NASA’s Urban Air Mobility (UAM) system is being designed for efficient air passenger and cargo transportation flights in urban areas. Uber’s partnership with NASA will ensure safe, low altitude flights for their eVTOL vehicle.
In NASA’s article, Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics, said, “NASA has the knowledge and the expertise to help make urban air mobility happen…We plan to conduct the research and development, and test the concepts and technologies that establish feasibility and help set the requirements. Those requirements then serve to make using autonomous vehicles, electric propulsion, and high density airspace operations in the urban environment safe, efficient and economically viable.”
Hurdles to Consider
Besides air traffic management for multiple aerial vehicles, NASA will work on noise impacts, cyber security and integration with airplanes. Noise levels are a major factor in allowing eVOTL vehicles to operate in US cities. UberAir has anticipated to bring “tens of thousands” of flights each day, according to LA Times. In order for next-generation transportation vehicles to become a reality, they must pass through hurdles of regulations and safety requirements.