Uber, NASA Flying Taxis Take Off ... on Drawing Board

UberAIR will cost the same as Uber X at launch                  Uber

The ride-hailing startup's ambitious plans for a network of pod-like flying taxis that zoom around the sky were first revealed in April. "I think 2020 is realistic for a vehicle that is not replacing an airplane but replacing a auto", Richard Pat Anderson, director of the Flight Research Center at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, told Wired at the time.

The company's chief product officer, Jeff Holden, announced the new service contract at Web Summit in Lisbon, alongside its intention to begin testing four-passenger, 320km/h UberAir flying taxi services across Los Angeles in 2020, its second test market in the United States after Dallas.

The efficiency of electric aircraft brings "the price point down dramatically" compared with helicopters, Holden said.

Holden said that Uber Elevate is closer than people think.

"At scale, we expect UberAIR will perform tens of thousands of flights each day across the city - at those levels, all the time savings will have a noticeable positive impact on the region's economy". But a spokesperson for the mayor said conversations about regulation, environmental effects and zoning had not yet started. Proposed take-off and landing zones equipped with aircraft charging stations have not yet been built.

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Share this article: The logo of the ride-sharing company Uber. The signing of the Space Act Agreement with NASA will allow the two companies to work together to build an unmanned traffic management system that will allow unmanned aerial systems to safely navigate at a low altitude.

Such hurdles include the need for approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration for operation outside normal aircraft corridors, which will be hard to obtain due to stringent safety and regulation requirements. Now, the ride-sharing company has taken the next step in the project, teaming up with NASA to help manage the vehicles.

The vehicles look a bit like the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor planes that can take off vertically, then tilt the rotors forward for speedy horizontal flight.

"When you have a pilot in the aircraft, you'll see consumer adoption pretty fast", he said. Though, he said it will be initially more expensive.

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