Space Cowboys: Dallas-Fort Worth to be first area worldwide to test UberAir flying cars in 2020

Uber Elevate rendering

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To watch a video explaining Uber Elevate’s plan in a nutshell, please visit

Mark Moore is more than a “space cowboy” after Uber Elevate’s newest advances, which aim to transform vertical flight and transportation in cities around the world.

By 2023 the average joe’s commute may not be far off from the futuristic world of the Jetson’s. At the third-annual Rotorcraft Business & Technology Summit, hosted by Rotor & Wing International, from Sept. 20-21 at the Fort Worth Omni Hotel, Mark Moore, Uber Technology Inc.’s director of aviation, discussed the semantics of flying cars at the touch of a button.

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Moore spent 32 years with NASA working exclusively on vertical flight aircraft and systems, leaving the position last year to join Uber and work on the company’s Elevate project.

Since its inception seven years ago, Uber has grown to operate across 77 countries in more than 600 cities, with has 65 million unique monthly riders and 3.2 million drivers. Riders can even choose different vehicles and opt to carpool with other users.

Within the first seven months of UberPOOL’s creation in 2016, the company reduced miles driven by 312 million, cut Carbon Dioxide emissions by 55,560 tons and saved 6.2 million gallons of fuel — all in the name of helping to ease the transportation gridlock metropolitan areas face. Well, soon, “carpooling” could move from the ground to the air with Uber Elevate.

“We’re not just an app,” Moore said. “We’re developing technologies that can help make transportation even more productive and invigorate cities to be even more productive and have less congestion.”

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This wasn’t Moore’s first time at the conference. When it was held last autumn in Dallas, Moore and Uber sent shockwaves through the audience as they brought the idea of “flying cars” to the forefront of everyone’s minds, soon after releasing its whitepaper on the technology.

Moore spoke on his talk last year saying he closed his time with the metaphor, “I know it’s probably like we’re back in the wild, wild west and I’m this cowboy who comes riding into town saying, ‘Hey, there’s something coming from over that hill!’ And the people look at him and go ‘Has this cowboy been at the saloon too long?’”

“What’s really cool is that since the last time we were here together, so many things have happened that it doesn’t sound like i’m a drunk cowboy,” Moore said, laughing.

Currently, Uber is testing self-driving cars in places like Pittsburgh and Arizona, and Moore says he thinks it may actually be easier to accomplish self-flying planes — following the successful implementation of eVTOLs — than self-driving cars. Moore hopes that by 2030-2035 — after 7-10 years of Uber Elevate flight — they can introduce autonomous eVTOLS.

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“We will not do that until … that software is ready to be better than a pilot. Just like every automotive manufacturer is doing on the ground with self driving cars today,” Moore said. “I’m really excited for this autonomy to happen because, guess what, there aren’t any kids running out into the sky, it’s not a horribly cluttered environment, there arent construction zones.

“I am convinced that it is significantly easier for us to achieve self-flying aircraft than it is for self-driving cars to be fully autonomous,” Moore continued.

This year, as the Sept. 20 conference keynote, Moore detailed a future featuring autonomous flying electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing aircrafts — eVTOLs — offering multimodal transportation that in time will be available for the same or a similar price to single-modal UberX.

“I think that the Uber Elevate mission is very exciting and has a lot of possibilities for the future,” Mike Hirschberg, executive director with AHS International said. “Yesterday I was meeting with the FAA in Alliance and I had to get to the convention center and it took 45 minutes [in an Uber] because of all the construction and traffic and rush hour, if I could’ve gotten on a Vertipad, taken off and then landed here downtown I could’ve made that flight in five minutes or less.

“Because ground traffic has choke points, whether it’s an accident of rush-hour traffic or construction there’s always some hang up that’s going to prevent you from getting to where you want to go in a timely manner,” Hirschberg added.

Moore sees the multimodal system as being able to send an UberX to pick up the consumer from their home or work, then have the UberX transport the traveler to a Vertiport where they can use UberAir to move intra-city. From there, depending on their destination, the consumer would either walk or take an UberX to their final destination.

Moore’s hope is that UberAir would not only be available at a reasonable cost to the consumer, but help give them back their time by expediting multimodal travel. Moore said that any UberAir trip offered trip must dace 40 percent of the time of simply taking an UberX or it’s not economically feasible nor is it worth the time.

“The big idea here is that we are going to be able to — within six years — add another button to push in terms of choosing a transportation option,” Moore said. “One that is much faster than staying in ground gridlock.”

Uber Elevate’s eVTOLs — powered by distributed electric propulsion (DEP) technology — are optimized for short distance trips, typically between 20 and 60 miles, of intra-city travel using Vertiports.

These Vertiport locations will be chosen with the help of sensors being placed to determine transportation hubs. Every Vertiport will have a eVTOL landing/takeoff spot and four eVTOL parking spots. Moore hopes to place these Vertiports on the roofs of existing parking garages so the whole project puts all burden on the vehicles and their capabilities than on the infrastructure of the city. He estimates adding these Vertiports to existing infrastructure could take as little as 6-12 months.

The eVTOLs will descend onto the Vertiport landing/takeoff spot and then take 30 seconds to taxi to the parking spot where passengers will have 3 mins to transload. During the passenger transload the vehicle’s battery will also be charging. On average the vehicles will charge for 5 minutes — adding 20 percent charge — before taxiing back out ot the takeoff spot and heading out on its next mission.

Chargepoint is a key business partner with Uber Elevate in constructing battery charging points that are specifically adapted to the rapid charging and cooling needs of eVTOLs.

These eVTOLs are very different to helicopters, Moore said, explaining that because in design they have halved the tip speed — which is the outer edge velocity of the tip of a propeller — the vehicle can be 32 times quieter than the average helicopter. A statistic he thinks will be helpful in gaining the community acceptance needed to fully implement this project.

Additionally, unlike helicopters, these eVTOLs will not have any single-fault parts, making the vehicles failure tolerant. That means multiple systems can go down, or fail, and the vehicle as whole will not be stopped.

“Every one of these vehicles is designed so it could fail the propulsor, fail the motor, the controller or any other part and still be able to have control and enough thrust to land safely,” Moore said.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area will be the first area to test the Uber Elevate system and eVTOLS, followed by Dubai and other places soon to be announced, Moore said. Testing is scheduled to begin in 2020 with hopes of having a commercial launch by 2023. In the early stages each city will have 2 Vertiport hubs. Moore says a fully mature city will have about 15 hubs.

Currently, Uber Elevates works with five key partners in Embraer, Aurora, Mooney, Bell Helicopter and Pipistrel. Moore and a group of directors and heads at Uber Technologies Inc. along with the director of innovation at Bell Helicopter spoke on the extensive opportunities still put there for partnerships in industries and business areas including manufacturing, real estate development, operations, maintenance, leasing, insurance and more.

“At Uber we’re not designing or building the vehicle, we’re not experts in that,” Moore said. “The key thing we’re doing is we’re trying to bring the whole ecosystem together to make this a feasible transportation solution.”

Mission Day Stats as presented by Moore

— 16 hour operational window to capture travel demand peaks, which includes 6 hours of peak time, 10 hours of non-peak travel

— 250 days of travel per year

— Dynamic pricing similar to surge versus non-surge seen with UberX

— 25 mile average trip/mission distance

— 10 minutes of average trip time plus 5 minutes average charge time makes for 15 minutes to complete the average mission

— At peak time, 4 flights per hour, at non-peak, 3 flights per hour

— More than 2,000 annual flights

UberElevates/UberAir Timeline as presented by Moore

2020 – The beginning

— Experimental flights in Dallas and Dubai to validate sound and open door for community engagemet

— Work out any kinks with user testing and feedback from 2020-2023

— Decide on Vertiport locations

2023 – Commercial rollout

— 50-100 aircrafts across three cities

— Rollout UberAir commercial service following vehicle certification from FAA

— Each eVTOL will carry a commercial pilot and four passengers

2025 – Early scaled operations

— 5+ cities

— 300-500 aircrafts per city

— 60,000 passenger trips per day per city

— Each eVTOL will carry a commercial pilot and four passengers

2030-2035 – Fully scaled operations

— 12+ cities

— 1,000+ aircrafts per city

— 100,000 flights per day per city

— Each eVTOL will carry five passengers, as the eVTOLs will be autonomous