Commercial, Unmanned

Uber Air Taxi Effort Recruits NASA to Develop ATM Concepts, Reports Say

By S.L. Fuller | November 8, 2017
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Image courtesy of Uber

Reports about “flying cars” are flooding in from mainstream media, originating from Lisbon, Portugal. Uber CPO Jeff Holden reportedly made two announcements during the annual Web Summit: The Uber Elevate initiative is coming to Los Angeles, and the rideshare giant has recruited NASA to its team.

Uber Elevate is the company’s program to bring a rideshare urban mobility ecosystem to the general public at an affordable price. The offering would be called “UberAir” and would bring electric VTOL aircraft to densely populated metropolises.

According to Bloomberg, Uber and NASA signed an agreement Tuesday to develop new traffic concepts for robotic flight systems operations. NASA has been working extensively with the industry to develop unmanned aircraft system (UAS) traffic management (UTM) concepts to assist with the effort to safely integrate drones into the national airspace.

In November 2016, AT&T said it had signed an agreement with NASA to research UTM systems. In June, the FAA and NASA convened with Google’s Project Wing for a round of testing of its unmanned traffic management concept. NASA announced earlier this month it had created an “Industry Day,” scheduled for Nov. 30 in San Diego. Commercial and academic partners would be called on for input in support of the planned systems integration and operationalization demonstration to take place in mid-2020. Uber has said it aims to, in the distant future, have the aircraft in its urban mobility network be autonomous. The work NASA has been doing for Part 107 UAS could translate to larger passenger drones.

CNN reported that Uber projected trips from the Los Angeles airport to the Staples Center during rush hour would take less than 30 minutes with UberAir. By car, this trip could take nearly one and a half hours. Uber is hoping to have commercial operations up and running in the city ahead of the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, according to several reports.

The addition of Los Angeles brings Uber’s list of target cities to three. Dallas and Dubai are already slated to host pilot runs for the project in 2020. And the addition of NASA adds to a list of Uber’s official Elevate partners, which includes Bell Helicopter, Aurora Flight Sciences, Embraer, ChargePoint and more.

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