Uber’s taxi of tomorrow
Uber has unveiled a futuristic air taxi, which looks more like a drone than a helicopter. Its design enables it to transition safely between vertical and forward flight, thanks to its stacked co-rotating propellers.
The aircraft, which Uber plans to bring onto the market as an air taxi by 2023, is a combination of an airplane and a helicopter. Instead of a tilt-rotor, it has four stacked rotors that ensure lift, as well as a fifth rotor at the rear to generate propulsion.
Stacked co-rotating rotors have two rotor systems arranged one above the other, which both rotate in the same direction. Initial tests with this design have revealed its potential to run significantly more quietly than conventional paired rotor systems, and for improved overall performance.
Powered by electricity and with a speed of up to 320 km/h
The air taxis are powered by electricity and designed to reach a height of 300 to 600 m and a maximum speed of 320km per hour. Uber is planning to launch thousands of air taxis to carry passengers between skyports located in landing sites and on rooftops in cities. Each of these skyports will be equipped for 200 takeoffs and landings per hour. The aircraft will initially be manned by a pilot, but later Uber plans for them to fly autonomously.
Uber first presented the idea of transporting passengers via air taxi back in 2016, but the project still faces some significant challenges. The electric, autonomous VTOL aircraft that Uber is envisioning doesn’t exist yet and neither does the infrastructure it would require. There are also some technical and regulatory barriers that might prevent the flying cars from ever getting off the ground.
Flying cars are all the rage
There are at least 19 companies currently developing plans for flying cars, including both legacy manufacturers, such as Boeing and Airbus, and small start-ups like Kitty Hawk, which is owned by Google founder Larry Page. In the meantime, Uber has made considerable progress in its partnerships with a handful of aircraft manufacturers, real estate companies and regulatory authorities, to improve its chances of developing a fully functioning, customized air taxi service.
For instance, Uber has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA for the purpose of setting up a brand-new air traffic control system to guide these low-flying, possibly autonomous aircrafts.
All of the autonomous air taxis presented up to now can just about fit one or two passengers. Uber, on the other hand, wants to develop a larger transport system that can carry more people per flight. But large air taxis also require larger landing areas, which, especially in cities, aren’t easy to find.
This article was first published in German by next-mobility.news.