Uber, The taxi app has hired a NASA aircraft engineer to help develop its Elevate Uber flying taxis’ initiative.
Autonomous flying taxis may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but they could soon become reality after Uber hired NASA engineer Mark Moore to help develop its “Elevate” programme.
First announced last October, Elevate is Uber’s radical vision for airborne commutes that envisions customers hailing helicopter-like vehicles in the same way they hail taxis.
Mr Moore, who worked at the federal agency as an advanced aircraft engineer, is known for being one of the first supporters of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technologies – having written a paper on short-haul urban flight in 2010.
He was hired by Uber chief executive Travis Kalanicks after commenting on Uber’s recent white paper outlining the initiative, Bloomberg reported.
Uber’s vision for “on-demand aviation” involves fleets of small vehicles that can take off and land vertically, are electrically powered, and have ranges of between 50 and 100 miles on a single charge.
The ultimate goal would be to to have these operate autonomously – requested via an app on a passenger’s phone – but, in the short-term, Moore told Bloomberg that human pilots will probably operate these vehicles.
Uber is not the first company to experiment with flying car technologies. Last October, Google spent £70 million on developing a flying car , with CEO Larry Page flying a prototype over the tarmac at an airport in California.
More recently, Airbus – an aerospace group – announced plans to test a prototype for a self-piloted flying car by the end of the year.
The perks of flying vehicles service include the ability to avoid congestion and bypass ground traffic, as well as reduce fuel costs – making VTOL taxis more profitable over the long-term.
It’s likely to be some time before Uber Elevate provides us with an actual on-demand airborne taxi service, but the company appears to be serious about pursuing the project.
“Uber continues to see its role as an accelerant-catalyst to the entire ecosystem, and we are excited to have Mark joining us,” said Nikhil Goel, Uber’s head of product for advanced programmes.