Ride-sharing technology company Uber has announced plans to launch an electric-powered air taxi, or electric vertical take-off or landing (e-VTOL) aircraft, by 2020.
Uber’s chief product officer Jeff Holden said Dallas and Dubai would be the first two global cities to see its Uber Elevate concept launched, in which small e-VTOL aircraft would be operated commercially from established vertiports as on-demand air taxis.
“If we can provide ubiquity and low cost, people will actually dispense with their privately owned vehicle,” said Holden at the Uber Elevate Summit in Dallas, Texas on April 26.
“In the near term, an e-VTOL air taxi’s cost per passenger mile could be as low as US$1.32, comparable to the present cost of an UberX transport. In the long term, the cost per passenger mile could fall below the variable cost of a passenger car, which could encourage more people to rethink car ownership altogether.”
Uber also announced it has selected Aurora Flight Sciences to partner with in the development of e-VTOL aircraft for its Elevate Network. Aurora, headquartered in Manassas, Virginia had successfully flown its first e-VTOL concept, based on its XV-24A VTOL military X-plane project currently in development for the US Department of Defense, a week prior to the summit on April 20.
Aurora Flight Service chief executive John Langford was confident the goal of delivering to Uber 50 e-VTOL aircraft for testing by 2020 is “well within reach.”
Holden said on-demand e-VTOL air taxi operations will begin initially with piloted aircraft flying within existing air traffic control systems and hoped its fully-autonomous aircraft would integrate into future traffic management systems.
“We’re going to see how fast we can make this a reality,” said Holden. “We know this is possible, we know this is going to happen.”