As it forges ahead with plans for UberAir, Uber has enlisted the services of engineers from the University of Texas at Austin (UT) to develop the new rotor technologies to get the airborne ride-share service off the ground.
Uber first revealed its plans for its flying taxi service in 2016, outlining a vision whereby vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft would carry people around cities between strategically placed Skyports. The hope is that this will be a faster mode of travel, while easing congestion and pollution in busy urban centers.
It hopes to start flight testing in Dubai, Dallas and Los Angeles in 2020, but it can't go it alone. Uber has already partnered with NASA to develop new air traffic managements systems, and also gotten the US Army onboard to develop advanced rotor technologies. That latter collaboration now welcomes the UT into the fold, which will work with Uber and the US Army Research Labs to build the fast spinning bits that will lift the vehicles into the air.
Concepts have given an indication of what Uber's flying taxis could look like, but it is far from set in stone. The venture calls for the VTOL aircraft to be fully electric and capable of cruising speeds of 150 to 200 mph (241 to 322 km/h), at a cruising altitude of 1,000 to 2,000 ft (300 to 600 m). It should also be able to complete 60 trips per charge.
The UT team will be responsible for exploring the efficiency and noise signatures of stacked co-rotating systems for Uber's aircraft, a relatively novel technology whereby a pair of rotors are placed on top of one another, spinning in the same direction. It says early testing has shown that this configuration could prove more efficient, versatile and offer better performance than other approaches.
"UT is uniquely positioned to contribute to this new technology, and Uber has recognized that," said Jayant Sirohi, associate professor in UT's Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics team leader on the project. "In addition to the technical expertise we bring to this area, we also already have a rig to test new rotor configurations right here on campus."
Uber hopes to have UberAir up and running in Dallas and Los Angeles by 2023.
Source: University of Texas at Austin
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