Technology

If Uber has its way, a flying taxi may soon be headed yours

A rendering of a landing/launching area for Uber’s proposed Elevate network to transport people and deliver items via electric vertical lift aircraft.
A rendering of a landing/launching area for Uber’s proposed Elevate network to transport people and deliver items via electric vertical lift aircraft.

Sick of getting stuck in Metroplex traffic? Uber wants to create a way for commuters to fly over it.

The company announced plans on Tuesday to develop a network of aircraft, working with manufacturers including Fort Worth’s Bell Helicopter, to provide on-demand air transportation in large urban areas. Dallas/Fort Worth would be the test market for the concept, with Uber hoping to launch its first network here by 2020.

“Imagine one day you’re using your everyday Uber [app], you see a new option for air,” said Jeff Holden, chief product officer at Uber. “You literally push a button and get a flight.”

The car-for-hire company discussed its vision for urban air service at the Uber Elevate Summit in Dallas. With its Uber Elevate network, Uber plans a network of electric aircraft and skyports that could provide transportation and delivery services in cities.

Hillwood Properties, the developer of AllianceTexas, is partnering with Uber to build the vertical skyports, with plans to develop two to five ports within the next year.

Imagine landing at DFW airport and flying to Frisco in just a few minutes.

Jeff Holden, Uber chief product officer

Fort Worth-based Bell is working on propulsion technology to build electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that are quieter than the usual helicopter.

“It’s not going to happen right away, tomorrow, but the technology is definitely there,” said Bell Helicopter’s chief executive Mitch Snyder in an interview this week.

“We definitely believe the hybrid electric is something we could go make and fly right now,” Snyder said. “But I think full electric, to give it the range and everything you want out of it, is not quite there.”

Uber also has agreements with Embraer, Aurora Flight Sciences, Pipistrel and Mooney International Corp. to develop the electric aircraft network.

The first electric aircraft would be piloted but that eventually with fly-by-wire systems, the aircraft could be self-piloted, Holden said.

“Imagine landing at DFW Airport and flying to Frisco in just a few minutes,” Holden said.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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