During his keynote introduction address at this week’s Uber Elevate Summit, Uber’s chief product officer Jeff Holden admitted the company is rushing the UberAir initiative because of its excitement to make flying cars a reality. After all, now more than ever companies are clamoring to deliver the Jetsons lifestyle to us by the start of the next decade, so we should get accustomed to seeing more and more video of “flying car” prototypes and test flights.
Aurora Flight Services is the latest company to unveil its own electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) prototype, and the Uber Elevate Summit was the perfect venue because of the Virginia-based tech company’s new partnership with the transportation network. Like Uber’s other aircraft manufacturing partners — including Embraer, Bell Helicopter and Pipistrel — Aurora is excited about the opportunity to evolve regional transportation.
“The Uber Elevate mission is all about low noise, high reliability, and low cost,” said Aurora CEO John Langford. “By drawing on our nearly 30 years of successful autonomy and robotic programs, Aurora is well-positioned to deliver on this urban solution. We have already built and flown the first proof-of-concept aircraft and we’re excited to partner with Uber in accelerating the eVTOL initiative.”
Aurora’s eVTOL concept is rooted in the company’s XV-24A X-plane program currently underway for the U.S. Department of Defense, but the company is actually using aspects of all of its autonomous aircraft. For example, the company says the eVTOL utilizes the Aurora Centaur’s autonomous flight guidance system, the AACUS program’s perception and collision avoidance system, and the XV-24A demonstrator’s battery electric propulsion system.
The eVTOL’s first test flight took place on April 20, and the company says it was a success. Aurora’s goal is to deliver 50 aircraft for UberAir by 2020.