- Uber’s first attempt at an electric, passenger drone has been unveiled.
- The company showed off a full-size model of the helicopter-plane hybrid at its Elevate conference in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.
- The aircraft’s electric batteries allow it to fly emissions-free at speeds up to 150 miles per hour, the team behind the design said in an interview with Business Insider.
WASHINGTON D.C. — Uber has unveiled its first electric passenger aircraft prototype.
The vehicle, on display for the first time at the company’s Elevate conference in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, can carry up to four passengers and looks like an airplane-helicopter hybrid, as opposed to some of the more futuristic drones that have been designed.
It’s being designed through a partnership between Uber and a company called Jaunt Air Mobility. The companies aim to have a working model in the air by 2023.
‘It’s called the compound aircraft and what it’s doing is really trying to get the best of both worlds of hover and highspeed efficient flight,” Mark Moore, Uber Elevate’s head of Engineering, said in an interview.
“That’s why you see a large rotor, which lets it hover very quietly, go through the transition to horizontal flight. As it gets to higher speed, then the lift is generated by the wing, so the rotor slows down and it just kind of slowly rotates. Almost none of it is being generated by that rotor, it’s all by the wing because it’s so much more efficient to generate lift by a wing.”
That combination of an airplane-like wing and helicopter-esque rotor will let the aircraft remain perfectly level at all times during flight, the designers said. It also means fewer complicated flaps and wing parts.
“This can take off and land from a 50-foot pad just like a helicopter,” Martin Peryea, Jaunt’s chief technology officer, said in an interview. “It can just cruise a lot faster than a helicopter, up to 150 miles per hour.”
That means the aircraft can take a 20-mile trip across a city, for instance, in just a few minutes. What’s more, it will be far cleaner than the carbon-burning helicopters crossing cities like New York currently, and quieter too.
At launch, the aircraft will be as cheap as an Uber Black ride, Uber’s head of its Elevate division, said at the conference. Eventually, it can be even cheaper than car ownership on a per-mile and per-set basis.
“These vehicles can’t just have an economic mission, they have to be green,” Eric Alison, Elevate’s Eric Allison said. “They have to be responsible in the communities in which we are working. We believe that means they have to be battery powered and quiet.”