Uber Flying Car Project Update: NASA Engineer to Develop Air Taxis

Uber Flying Car Project Update: NASA Engineer to Develop Air Taxis PHOTOGRAPH: Flickr/Alper Çuğun | Under CC BY 2.0

Mark Moore, former aircraft engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center, proposed a project called VTOL back in 2010. He outlined a white paper, which talked about vertical takeoff and landing, or in other words, airborne cars. However, after initially promising to work with Google to develop this technology in real time, he soon switched sides and pledged his allegiance to Uber instead.

VTOL, The Flying Car Project

Project VTOL discussed the feasibility of electric aircrafts that replicates smaller version of helicopters. These flying vehicles would have, in theory, the capacity to take off and land to provide a futuristic alternative to dreary traffic. The flying cars would also reduce noise pollution, as they would be far quieter than traditional helicopters.

Mark Moore’s vision was so impressive that Google co-founder Larry Page started financing two Silicon Valley startups, Zee Aero and Kitty Hawk, to develop the technology. According to Bloomberg, Moore has decided to pair up with Uber, which is a well-known rival of Google. He has also been offered the esteemed designation of director of engineering for aviation at his new company.

Technical And Non-Technical Difficulties in VTOL

“I can’t think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL market real,” claimed Moore. However, this does not mean that Uber is anywhere close to manufacturing flying cabs yet. It has yet to smoothen out the technical difficulties that are inherent in the concept of airborne commutes.

Vehicle efficiency and limited battery life are the main hiccups that need to be addressed. Only then can Uber move forward to the next phase.  However, Uber is pretty sure that working with Moore will give them the best means of developing VTOL.“Uber continues to see its role as an accelerant-catalyst to the entire ecosystem, and we are excited to have Mark joining us to work with manufacturers and stakeholders as we continue to explore the use case described in our whitepaper,” said Nikhil Goel, Uber’s head of product for advanced programs.

Moore also mentioned a couple of non-technical obstacles that keeps the technology from getting turned into reality. Firstly, regulators need to certify aircrafts and agree to lower air-traffic restrictions. Also, Uber will need to strike independent deals with suppliers to maintain cost effectiveness of the project, Wired reported.

But Moore believes that if all the safety protocols are met, VTOL could make for a profitable market. The vision of Uber riders availing a flying cab that picks them up from their front porch and takes them to “vertiports” around their city might not be a fantastical expectation after all. Moore also predicts that his vision will be turning real in the next one to three years.

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