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On the first day of its second annual Elevate Summit, Uber unveiled a series of new advancements and partnerships that are helping launch the world’s first urban aviation network.
Six months after announcing Los Angeles would be one of the first U.S. cities to launch uberAIR, the company reinforced its partnerships with key manufacturers and technology companies, working together towards a goal of launching flight demonstrations in 2020 and commercial trips by 2023.
“Today, Uber’s annual Elevate Summit took flight to showcase the aviation industry’s advancements on many fronts needed to make uberAIR a reality by 2023,” said Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product officer. “This includes multiple vehicle designs, new battery technology, manufacturing improvements and the ‘operating system’ that will enable safe, precise, environmentally friendly operations at scale and allow cities to radically improve their transit networks. This gargantuan effort to ‘push a button and get a flight’ can only be accomplished through close partnership across the public and private sectors, and that’s exactly what Elevate Summits are all about.”
Uber will not manufacture the vehicles but will work with industry leaders to produce vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft that will use the uberAIR network. Some of the key announcements from the first day of the summit include:
- New uberAIR Common Reference Model: Uber showcased a new uberAIR common reference model which will fly more than 1,000 feet above the ground at a speed of 150 to 200 miles per hour. The model features four sets of electric propellers dedicated to vertical takeoff and landing which will make the aircraft safer and help reduce noise, making it significantly quieter than existing helicopters.
- Embraer showcased its first VTOL model: The new Embraer X marks a new direction for the company, which has designed, developed and certified close to 50 aircraft models, delivering more than 8,000 aircraft to 100 countries.
- New concept model from Pipistrel: Pipistrel, manufacturers of the world’s first FAA-approved electric plane, the Alpha Electro, revealed a new concept model which uses dedicated propulsion systems for both cruising and vertical lift.
- Karem Aircraft joins as a new Elevate vehicle partner: Uber and Karem will collaborate on their latest Butterfly aircraft, a quad tiltrotor with four large rotors mounted on the wings and tail. This design solves the tradeoff between hover and cruise efficiency, allowing for lift but creating a much quieter 100 percent electric vehicle for the uberAIR network.
- New research agreement with the U.S. Army: To help create new quieter, higher performing rotor systems that will be used in the Common Reference Model, Uber and the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Army Research Lab, have signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) and a Joint Work Statement (JWS). This agreement includes joint funding and research development to create the first stacked co-rotating propeller; a new concept with two rotors placed on top of each other which rotate in the same direction and are significantly quieter for a flying craft.
- New battery technology partnership with E-One Moli: Electric VTOL vehicles will require new battery technology to be able to travel tens of trips on one charge and recharge quickly. At this year’s summit, Uber announced a partnership with E-One Moli (Moli) to collaborate on battery packs for eVTOL aircrafts. Moli will work closely with Uber’s battery team, led by Celina Mikolajczak, to develop battery cells that can be used in future prototypes with vehicle partners.
- ChargePoint reveals concept design for eVTOL chargers: ChargePoint, the world’s leading and most open electric vehicle (EV) charging network, revealed on May 9 a first-ever concept design for two-megawatt, high-powered charging of electric aircraft and semi-trucks, including electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
- Uber announces a second Space Act with NASA: Following its first agreement in November 2017, Uber announced a second Space Act agreement with NASA. NASA’s research into Urban Air Mobility (UAM) concepts and technologies will generate the data necessary to support the creation of industry standards, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules and procedures, and other regulations. More information is available here.
To lead Uber Elevate, Uber recently announced the hiring of Eric Allison, who previously led Zee.Aero. He joins Uber following the hiring of Celina Mikolajczak from Tesla and NASA veterans Mark Moore and Tom Prevot, who joined the project last year.
The summit’s second day will feature a reveal of Skyport designs from leading architecture firms, panels on regulatory challenges, and a closing fireside chat with CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.