Talking about the future has the advantage of forgetting a controversial recent past for Uber. The start-up is heading for its flying taxis project after being banned in London, going on trial with Waymo and still suffering from the behavior of its sulphurous founder Travis Kalanick who was eventually ousted . She had already unveiled the Elevate program, giving details of how it works today at the Lisbon Web Summit. The name of the service is fixed: it will be uberAir. Jeff Holden, the brand’s product manager, also announced a strategic partnership with NASA, according to Bloomberg.
A traffic management system like Amazon
The US agency will provide an automated air traffic management system called UTM for unmanned aerial system traffic management. Still under development, this software aims to monitor drones of any size at low altitude, whether used for delivery or transport. Discussions would have started with the FAA (Federation of American Aviation) and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
While this will not exempt Uber from obtaining authorizations and security certifications, but arriving with a turnkey traffic monitoring system, this solves part of the problem posed by the integration of drones into the airspace. It is exactly the strategy of Amazon which opened recently in France a research center on the subject in order to accelerate the development of its drones of delivery. Finally, like Dallas and Dubai, Los Angeles will host the first tests by 2020.
A service for all
Jeff Holden said more surprisingly that the Elevate program was not intended to launch a luxury service. “Our goal is to make this mode of transportation more economical than using a personal vehicle. We will achieve this by mass-producing these devices in an automated way, much like cars (with a simplified mechanical design requiring less maintenance), by optimizing their energy consumption, by exploiting them intensively”, he said. Affirmed at the Digital Factory.
Remember that flying taxis from Uber will be drones taking off and landing vertically like helicopters. This has the disadvantage of being energy-hungry and limiting the duration of journeys. But the links will be short and intra-urban in order to decongest the city centers. Uber does not plan to build the devices themselves, preferring to focus on the autonomous navigation system. Jeff Holden has also indicated that he also planked with partners on infrastructure that would reach the hubs called “Skyports” from which flying taxis take off.