Uber Unveils Its Flying Car Prototype
Matthew Greenwood posted on May 22, 2018 |
Drone-like vehicle is an electric VTOL taxi.

Uber unveiled its flying car concept aircraft at the Uber Elevate Summit, its second annual showcase of prototypes for its fleet of airborne taxis. The flying taxi is being developed by Pipistrel, a partner of the Uber Elevate program.

Pipistrel’s vehicle, which looks more like a drone than a helicopter, is an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle that would carry between two and six passengers. Company officials say the eVTOL’s four rotors will be safer, more affordable and more environmentally friendly than helicopters, which operate on only one rotor.

The eVTOL uses dedicated propulsion systems for both cruising and vertical lift, which allows it to fly longer distances, and at higher speeds, than previous models. “Pairing an innovative integrated vertical lift system, which is quiet and efficient, with highly aerodynamic wings results in a new class of eVTOL that maximizes high-speed cruise performance and dramatically lowers cost of operation,” said Ivo Boscarol, Pipistrel’s founder and general manager.

Pipistrel is currently working on reducing the noise footprint of its flying car through the use of active noise control measures. “It’s how you fly, where you fly, how you divert your thrust, how you phase your rotors,” said Dr. Tine Tomažič, Pipistrel’s director of research and development. “It turns out you can do a lot to control your noise footprint on the ground by not only what you are flying, but how you are flying it.”

The company is also developing mechanisms to make the car easier for a fleet of pilots to drive through simplified control principles and pilot assist functionality—particularly in limited visibility conditions and emergency situations such as bird strike incidents. Pipistrel is also exploring cybersecurity measures, including protection against rogue pilot scenarios.

The Pipistrel eVTOL would be an ideal vehicle for the Uber Elevate aviation initiative, which would consist of a network of small electric aircraft to enable four-person ridesharing flights in densely populated cities.

Uber hopes to introduce its flying taxis to riders in two to five years, starting in Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles. The taxis would conduct vertical takeoffs from air stations on rooftops or the ground. Initially, the vehicles would be piloted, but ultimately Uber intends for them to fly autonomously.

Eventually, the company hopes to give riders in urban areas a comfortable, safe and affordable ride—far above the busy city streets.

Read more about flying cars at What Can We Do to Get Flying Cars?

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