If all goes according to plan, Uber Air flying taxis will take off in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Melbourne in 2023, the company announced at its annual Uber Elevate Summit on Wednesday. Think of it like Uber Pool in the sky (but definitely not as cheap).
The electric VTOLs (vertical take-off and landing vehicles) are similar to a helicopter, and will carry four passengers at low altitude from skyports in each metro area. Test flights are slated to begin next year—with cautious FAA approval. The agency’s acting administrator Dan Elwell spoke at the conference Tuesday and shared his thoughts on Uber Air in a string of tweets.
Uber unveiled looks for the taxi network’s skyports from architecture and engineering firms Gensler, Corgan, SHoP, Pickard Chilton, and Arup.
The short flights will start at $5 per mile, so a 20-mile trip would add up to about $100. Eventually the cost will go down, Uber Elevate officials anticipate.
Here’s a breakdown of costs compared to Uber’s other ride options:
In Dallas, Corgan laid out a “Connection Plaza” below the flight deck with two flight pads and five charging stations for the aircraft. Stores, restaurants, bike and scooter charging, parks, and fountains are part of the airport design.
Gensler and SHoP put together designs for LA-area skyports. Gensler’s Cityspace concept is a shopping, eating, and hang-out space. SHoP’s Arc design incorporates solar panels to generate energy for the skyport, and would allow for 72 eVTOL trips per hour.
Melbourne was just announced as the third and only international city for Uber Air to test air travel. The skyport design there is a “Sky Loft” made from renewable resources like wood. A lounge, shopping area, and Jump bikes and scooters stations are below the flight deck.
Then there’s the aircraft itself. Uber’s working with manufacturers from Aurora Flight Sciences (which is part of Boeing), Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, Bell, and Karem Aircraft to create an electric passenger drone. On Wednesday, Uber showed what these aircraft would look like inside.
Designs from aircraft interior company Safran (think airplane overhead bins, galleys, and lavatories) show a compact, sleek interior that would work with aircraft from several manufacturers.
The cabin is designed to seat four passengers and their baggage along with space for a pilot or another crew member. At first, a pilot will be in the aircraft controlling the vehicle, but eventually would just be a safety pilot for the autonomous craft.
It’s like a shared ride, but 1,000 miles up in the air — and, cruising at 150 mph, way faster.