One of the more fanciful aspects of Uber's already pretty fanciful flying taxi service is the concept of Skyports. Like airports and train stations, these terminals would be used as a base for electric aircraft to stay charged up and for passengers to hop on and off. Here's a look at six finalist concepts dreamt up by architects collaborating with Uber on the idea.
Uber first floated the idea of taking its transportation services skyward in a 2016 white paper. The Uber Elevate service would use vertical takeoff and landing aircraft to ferry people around busy urban centers. With a range of up to 60 mi (96 km), the aircraft would move between Skyports stationed around cities, getting passengers where they need to go and swapping batteries or charging up at the same time.
At its Uber Elevate conference in LA this week, the company shared a few concepts of what the vehicles could look like, and it has now done the same for the Skyports themselves. These are the results of an invitation-based design competition held by Uber, and provide a thought-provoking, and let's face it, pretty audacious idea of what a future filled with flying taxis could look like.
Uber Sky Tower, by Pickard Chilton and ARUP
The Uber Sky Tower is the result of a collaboration between firms Pickard Chilton and ARUP, who stress that, while conceptual, it is "not science fiction" and is based on solid research. The modular structure is extendable, can be put together vertically or horizontally, and is designed to handle 1,000 five-seater vehicle arrivals and departures every hour.
eVTOL Aircraft Skyport, by BOKAPowell
This concept by US firm BOKAPowell features six landing pads and is also designed to handle 1,000 vehicle landings and take-offs every hour, which it equates to between 2,000 and 4,000 passengers. It says it can get folks from one of Uber's cars on the ground into one of its VTOL aircraft within three minutes.
Skyport, by Humphreys & Partners Architects
Dallas-based architecture firm Humphreys & Partners Architects has gotten a little more specific with its concept, which actually includes two types of Skyport. One is imagined to sit over the top of an existing parking garage in downtown LA, with its design able to be easily replicated for other locations around the city.
The other is a beehive-inspired Mega Skyport that would be a mixed-use development containing offices and retail spaces. Its facade could also be configurable to blend in with the surroundings.
Skyport by Gannett Fleming
The solution proposed by American engineering firm Gannett Fleming is to make use of a wire-guided robot that rotates the aircraft on the launchpad, positioning it for landing, loading, charging and taking off. The design is also modular and can be constructed both on top of and in between existing buildings.
The Hive, by Beck
The approach from Atlanta's Beck is also inspired by the beehive, and its designers say, much like bees, electric VTOL aircraft will buzz in and out of "The Hive" in a "never ending cycle of activity." The flexible design means it can be scaled up by simply adding more hexes as the service gains popularity, just as a bee scales up its hive. The firm says the facility could handle more than 1,000 landings and takeoffs per hour.
Mega Skyport, by Corgan
Again, the Skyport concept designed by architecture firm Corgan would be equipped to handle up to 1,000 electric VTOLs per hour and be a modular system so it can be adapted to different cityscapes. It consists of a connection plaza module for passenger transfers, a bridge module for foot traffic over highways, the station module itself and then the flight deck module.
To see more angles of these futuristic transportation hubs, have a flick through our gallery.
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