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 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