Uber plans to begin testing flying taxis in two cities by 2020

26 Apr 2017

Still from ‘Aurora Flight Sciences’ eVTOL Aircraft’, revealed at the Uber Elevate summit. Image: Aurora Flight Sciences/YouTube

Uber is finally able to release some good news, announcing plans to test its flying taxis with passengers by 2020.

The past few months have been tough on Uber, with CEO Travis Kalanick recently having to deflect questions about his own leadership, particularly in the wake of news that the ride-sharing service’s app was nearly banned from iOS devices.

So, it might have come as a relief to the company to be able to release some good news – from its own perspective – following its Uber Elevate summit held this week.

The summit was organised to specifically discuss the possibility of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft being used as flying taxis in the smart cities of the future.

While start-ups are already developing the first generation of operational flying cars, Uber has been quite keen to go its own way, developing a prototype for its own eVTOL.

It is building a team to work on the project, led by NASA’s former aeronautics engineer and flying car enthusiast, Mark Moore.

At the summit, Uber revealed that it expects to begin testing its first flying taxi prototypes with passengers in 2020.

Uber flying taxi concept

Illustration of the Uber Elevate Network. Image: Uber

Not the only manufacturer

The trials will begin in Dallas in the US and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and will be developed in cooperation with the aviation firms Embraer and Bell Helicopter.

According to the BBC, the Uber Elevate Network – as it will be called – will run trials in these two cities before rolling them out to customers by 2023.

Uber said the project was to “enable customers in the future to push a button and get a high-speed flight in and around cities”.

Also announced at the event was Uber’s collaboration with electric vehicle charging-point provider ChargePoint, which will develop charging stations for the eVTOLs in the years to come.

However, Uber isn’t the only company vying for the attention of Dubai. The city’s transport authority revealed earlier this year that it was working with a Chinese company to start testing its flying taxi soon.

Meanwhile, aircraft manufacturer Airbus is to test its own eVTOLs by the end of this year.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic