Uber Unveils Personal Airplane Design and Plans Tests in 2020
Uber is planning an on-demand fleet of electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft that will roam cities by 2020, the company announced on Tuesday.
The planes are based on an existing design for the U.S. Department of Defense's X-plane program. Made by Aurora Flight Sciences, the first plane successfully completed a flight test on April 20, and Uber hopes to have 50 of them by 2020 to test its Elevate network of on-demand planes.
"The Elevate VTOL network will help improve urban mobility around the world and transform the way we travel," Mark Moore, Uber's Director of Engineering, said in a statement.
The planes, which Uber intends to launch first in Dallas and Dubai, will be summoned using the Uber app, and will cost the company approximately $1.32 per passenger mile to operate, according to Reuters. That's comparable to the costs of the company's existing UberX car service for short distances.
While Aurora works on the plane, Uber plans to start construction of four landing pads for the planes in Dallas next year, Reuters reports.
The company first teased its plans to create urban networks of VTOL aircraft last fall with a 98-page report explaining how it would improve the safety of existing VTOL designs and make them quieter. VTOL has been used in military designs since the 1960s, when the British Harrier jump jet first took off. In addition to Aurora, multiple other companies are working on adapting the technology -- designed for multi-million dollar fighter jets -- to Cessna-sized airplanes for commercial use.
European aerospace giant Airbus has set up shop in Silicon Valley to work on its own VTOL air taxi concept. It hopes to have a full-size prototype before the end of the year and a marketable design by 2020. German startup Lilium, meanwhile, completed a test flight of its prototype this month, which it hopes will one day shuttle passengers short distances -- say, between Manhattan and JFK airport -- for less than $10.