Uber’s plan to launch flying taxi demonstrations in 2020 and commercial trips by 2023 is starting to take shape with five manufacturers now working on building this next-generation mode of transportation.
Karem is the latest aerospace company to join the effort to help uberAIR take, er, flight. The other four aerospace companies are Aurora Flight Sciences, Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer and Bell Helicopter. Karem was named as a new partner during Elevate Summit, a two-day flying car event organized by Uber.
During Elevate, Uber revealed concepts of what it hopes will be the flying cars that carry passengers in the future. Uber also provided more details on how this system of transit would work, as well as the many support companies and organizations that will need to be involved.
A system of flying cars will require an electric charging provider, agreements with property management companies (for a place to land), local government officials, and of course, a battery supplier.
Uber’s flying cars, or more accurately vertical take-off and landing (VTOL or eVTOL if electric) aircrafts, are at the center of this system.
Uber first announced its flying car plans in 2016 when it released a white paper describing its vision of the future.
These VTOL vehicles (pronounced vee-tol), would theoretically help passengers leapfrog snarling traffic and speed up transportation between suburbs and cities.
Uber has no plans to produce VTOL aircrafts. Instead, it’s working with five aircraft manufacturers to produce VTOL aircrafts that will use the uberAIR network.
Here’s a little bit about each company.
Karem Aircraft, is privately-held aerospace company headquartered in Lake Forest, Calif. The company is the newest Uber partner and is working on eVTOL technology.
Abe Karem, who founded the company, has a long history of designing flying concepts, such as the Predator drone and A160 Hummingbird, and for starting companies that get snapped up by aerospace giants. His last two companies were acquired by General Atomics and Boeing. Karem
Karem’s newest invention, and the one Uber will collaborate with the company on, is called Butterfly. It’s a quad tiltrotor with four large rotors mounted on the wings and tail. The Butterfly configuration is designed to solve the tradeoff between hover and cruise efficiency. It’s also designed to be quiet, a key challenge for Uber.
Aurora Flight Sciences
Aurora is a Boeing subsidiary. The company that specializes in autonomous flying systems was acquired by Boeing in 2017. Aurora, which operates out of the Manassas Airport in Virginia, was founded way back in 1989 after the MIT Daedalus Project, a human-powered aircraft out of MIT’s Aeronautics and Astronautics Department.
It has produced more than a dozen aircraft, including a line of small vertical take-off unmanned aircraft known as GoldenEye.
Pipistrel is the manufacturer behind the Alpha Electro, the world’s first FAA-approved electric plane. The company revealed a new concept model during the Elevate Summit that uses dedicated propulsion systems for both cruising and vertical lift.
Pipistrel, a Slovenian company, is known for its electric G4 concept that was able to fly up to four passengers 100 miles at an average speed of 108 miles per hour.
Pipistrel produces 13 different models of two-seat aircrafts, including the Alpha Electro and the Taurus Electro, which feature all-electric propulsion.
Embraer has been around for five decades and in that time has designed, developed and certified close to 50 aircraft models. In all, the company has delivered more than 8,000 aircrafts to 100 countries.
The company’s Embraer X unit is focused on disruptive technology such as VTOLs. It unveiled its first electricalVertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft concept.
What was Bell Helicopter, is now known as Bell as the company rebrands itself in preparation for an era of flying cars.
However, the company is still firmly in the business of making commercial and military helicopters.