With so many companies competing to become the Uber of the skies, it’s not surprising that Uber also wants to become the Uber of the skies. Back in October, the company revealed the first details of its ambitious “Elevate” program that would eliminate wasted hours of productivity caused by standard road travel by offering “on-demand aviation.” Simply put: Why drive to work when you can fly?
On Tuesday, Uber announced that it has teamed up with Pipistrel Aircraft to manufacture electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles, with the end-goal of launching an air taxi service in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and Dubai by 2020.
“I am proud and excited that Uber recognized our values, expertise and leadership in electric flight,” Pipistrel group CEO Ivo Boscarol said. “This partnership marks the beginning of an exciting journey towards entirely new ways we travel, not only saving time but also being friendly to the environment.”
As part of the Uber Elevate Summit’s keynote address, Uber’s Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden offered some details for UberAIR, including that this new service will still be as simple as using an app on your iPhone. More importantly, a trip will cost approximately $1.32 per mile for each passenger, which is the same rate as an Uber car ride.
The announcement comes at a time when Germany’s Lilium is garnering considerable buzz for the successful test flight of its Eagle prototype, and Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk finally unveiled its Flyer. Additionally, Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority has already promised flying taxis by July of this year, as China’s Ehang is already testing electric unmanned aircraft by the city’s airfield. So, if it seems like Uber is hurrying to make Elevate a prominent part of the “flying car” conversation, it definitely is.
Holden admitted that Uber is “running at this as opposed to taking a kind of careful approach,” because “We just want to usher it in as fast as possible because we all want to live in this world.”
In addition to the partnership with Pipistrel, Uber is also working with Bell Helicopter, Embraer, Mooney and Aurora Flight Services. Uber also previously praised the efforts of companies like Zee.Aero, Joby Aviation and Airbus in designing and developing VTOL aircraft, perhaps as a sign of collaborations to come. In February, the company tapped former NASA advanced aircraft engineer Mark Moore to be its director of engineering for aviation.
The entire three-day summit can be viewed on Uber’s live stream.