Urban Transport

Here's what Uber's air taxis may look like

Here's what Uber's air taxis m...
The subscale eVTOL model in flight
The subscale eVTOL model in flight
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The two-passenger eVTOL uses eight horizontally-oriented propellers to take off and land vertically, while a vertical prop in the rear allows it to switch to faster and more efficient fixed-wing flight once airborne
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The two-passenger eVTOL uses eight horizontally-oriented propellers to take off and land vertically, while a vertical prop in the rear allows it to switch to faster and more efficient fixed-wing flight once airborne
The subscale eVTOL model in flight
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The subscale eVTOL model in flight

Back in November, we heard about Uber's plans to add flying-car-like air taxis to its existing transport system. At the time, it wasn't clear just what form those vehicles would take. This Tuesday, however, the company announced that it has selected Virginia-based Aurora Flight Sciences as a partner to develop an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for its Uber Elevate Network – and a functioning model of it has already been flown.

The concept combines technologies from several other projects that Aurora has been working on.

Its battery electric propulsion system, for instance, is derived from the XV-24A X-plane demonstrator designed for the US Department of Defense. The autonomous flight guidance system, meanwhile, is adapted from the Centaur optionally-piloted aircraft, while the perception and collision avoidance system was developed for the US Navy's Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS).

The two-passenger eVTOL uses eight horizontally-oriented propellers to take off and land vertically, while a vertical prop in the rear allows it to switch to faster and more efficient fixed-wing flight once airborne
The two-passenger eVTOL uses eight horizontally-oriented propellers to take off and land vertically, while a vertical prop in the rear allows it to switch to faster and more efficient fixed-wing flight once airborne

The two-passenger aircraft uses eight horizontally-oriented propellers to take off and land vertically, while a vertical prop in the rear allows it to switch to faster and more efficient fixed-wing flight once airborne. For now, little else in the way of technical details are available.

On April 20th, a proof-of-concept subscale model of the eVTOL was successfully test-flown – that flight (along with some animation) can be seen in the video below.

Plans call for Aurora to supply Uber with 50 of the aircraft by 2020. Ultimately, the hope is that users could request a pickup by one of the eVTOLs via an app on their smartphone.

Source: Aurora Flight Sciences

Aurora Flight Sciences' Electric VTOL Aircraft

8 comments
Daishi
So far the company got a sub-scale drone off the ground, hovered for a few minutes, and then landed it and now they are planning to deliver 50 electric VTOL's by 2020 meant to carry people and they haven't made it out of the CGI phase yet? Good luck with that. The sub-scale drone they tested wasn't even this design. Uber has made so many missteps lately I wonder if they have any idea what they are doing. They have better things to spend money on than 50 vaporware VTOL's.
Jimjam
This seems like silcon valley PR to distract people from the less pleasant aspects of these companies businesses. Google were messing about with autonomous cars for years until Telsa threatened to release one. It probably helps people to forget that they make the bulk of their money targeting ads at people by slurping all their data. And Amazon have been accused of having horrid working conditions in their warehouses, but drone deliver distracts people.
Jimjam
This seems like silcon valley PR to distract people from the less pleasant aspects of these companies businesses. Google were messing about with autonomous cars for years until Telsa threatened to release one. It probably helps people to forget that they make the bulk of their money targeting ads at people by slurping all their data. And Amazon have been accused of having horrid working conditions in their warehouses, but drone deliver distracts people.
Vernon Miles Kerr
Why don't all companies designing passenger-carrying VTOL craft consider putting the rotors under a light-weight composite base which is vented but can be walked on. The leading edge of the base would have to be aerodynamic for forward flight, of course. Perhaps there could be shutters in the top and bottom of the base that would close while loading and in forward flight in order to reduce drag even more. Or better yet, when the base shutters are closed, the shape of the unit is a modified airfoil which would provide additional lift.
ljaques
Great. Only $16,000,000 apiece, can carry up to 2 humans + 2 suitcases each, fly for 22 minutes, and land badly. Love it! Where's mine? Daishi is right about the progress: only CGI and a tiny model just 4 years before said production models come off the line? Yeahright. G'luck there, Aurora. My best guess is that single-human models will be the first to make it into production. Glorified semi- enclosed jetpack/drone with replaceable battery packs for quick turnover. Multi-user models would proceed only after individual units succeed (and can be insured) in the marketplace.
windykites
Very impressive. what was the need for the computer simulation, when the second part of the video was adequate? I think autogyros could make a comeback. Only on electric motor would be required. No pilot means no flying license. Is that correct?
BobKropp
Why does it need wings?
Nik
It looks like it might have a better future as a crop sprayer.