See inside Uber's first passenger drone, which could eventually fly passengers at 240 kph while burning no fossil fuels
- Uber is unveiling its first visions for passenger aircraft.
- The company hopes to offer air services beyond helicopters as early as 2023.
- For more stories, see the Business Insider South Africa homepage.
Uber has showed off what it believes the future of transport could look like: drone-type vehicles to carry passengers through the air.
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 [240 kilometres] per hour."
That means the aircraft can take a 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."
Here's what the first mock interior looks like:
Uber Air has collaborated with Bipolar Studio to make a full scale mock-up of the first interiors.
The company is calling this a "North Star" model that will guide future designs that actually fly.
Eventually, the service could cost about as much as an Uber Black ride, executives said — and be just as posh.
The aircraft can hold up to four passengers, not including the pilots.
Here's a view from the front, without rotors or any propulsion force yet.
"I think we’re at a transitional time for designs like this to serve as the influential typology in aerial ride-sharing standards for generations of aircraft to come," John Battlement, Uber Air's head of design, said in a press release.
The seats look more at home in a luxury SUV than a traditional helicopter.
The interior is completely customisable for any operator, depending on how they want to best serve customers.
"While the cabin may be minimal in some ways, it’s absolutely purpose built to the mission," the team behind the design said, adding that safety was paramount for every feature.
There's space for luggage in addition to passengers.
The butterfly doors scream James Bond movie.
Here's a view of the cabin all loaded up with passengers.
The theoretical cockpit is just as futuristic
Here's a closer look at the control systems.
Receive a single WhatsApp every morning with all our latest news: click here.
Also from Business Insider South Africa:
- Steinhoff, Tongaat, Omnia... Here's the dead giveaway that you should have avoided these companies, says an asset manager
- These are the South African sectors that will have jobs open in the next three months – and it is a good time to be in hospitality
- For sale: The CSIR is selling business licences for cool tech products - including an anti-landmine boot and a cheap ultrasound machine
- Watch: 'Swazi Gold' farmers in Eswatini fear new South African dagga laws could choke their business
- Tongaat Hulett's listing has been suspended - here's what we know about the crisis at the sugar giant