Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation


On-demand aviation has the potential to radically improve urban mobility, giving people back time lost in their daily commutes. Uber is close to the commute pain that citizens in cities around the world feel. We view helping to solve this problem as core to our mission and our commitment to our rider base. Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground. A network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically (called VTOL aircraft for Vertical Take-off and Landing), will enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities.

Read the full text here:   https://medium.com/@UberPubPolicy/fast-forwarding-to-a-future-of-on-demand-urban-air-transportation-f6ad36950ffa#.gkptt7fho

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  • It seem that the 400wh/Kg is a done deal : 

    OXIS Energy Ltd of the UK has successfully tested at over 400Wh/kg its Li-S development cell.


    Here is the video:   https://youtu.be/LSUi2ZuVEkc

  • Rob,

    Talking about a revolutionary concept,  Frank Robinson made a real impact in the helicopter world by building a new type of low priced certified aircraft allowing a lot of people like me, to get a pilot licence and fly at a ''reasonable'' price.

    The UBER paper is backed by serious people, and it is quite interesting to read. On the technical standpoint, it is mostly based on the TESLA concept; to get lower price by having a large volume of inexpensive an mechanically simpler vehicle than a helicopter. Somehow it is true, is is much simpler to build redundancy by adding fixed pitched propeller driven by electric motors.

    The major problem is still the energy : Their concept is based on having a high capacity fast charge  battery. They fixed the capacity level at 400 Wh/kg gravimetric energy density, that is more than double of the actual technology.

    After reading this, I came to the conclusion that it is feasible but not very practical in high density area. Just think of New-York, there are not very much available flying space available, so you cannot add thousands of additional flying vehicles over the Hudson without creating a very high risk flying zone... just Imagine that flight control authority scramble an emergency zone clearance because a jet liner has to ''land '' on the river...

    So the traffic jam will move from waiting in your car to waiting in the ''vertiport'' to get traffic clearance or for the battery charge... or on a more scary scenario , wait in a holding pattern over the Hudson hopelessly looking at the battery level going to zero !!


  • - And as you wrote, this concept is now shifting from a pure technical challenge to a safety and regulation problem. Basically this is a good sign that we might accept the fact that it is technically feasible.

    Amazing that we would just accept that it is technically feasible, even though some really basic engineering says it's not, and no testing has ever demonstrated it is either.

    Everybody still just trying to make something other than a helicopter, because that's been done before and it's hard to get millions in venture capital to do something that has already been done. 

  • Actually, you bring up a very interesting point Patrick, one of the places that has made the most strides in automated operation is the large jetliners.

    I am sure right now it would be possible if not yet legislatively feasible to make an autonomous jetliner that was actually both more efficient and safer than one with a pilot.

    Boy I can see the AOPA turning a bright shade of crimson over that comment.

    And real life pilots have done some absolutely incredible things like landing on/in the Hudson.

    But reality is computers are meticulous and tireless and do not make mistakes unless broken.

    Of course programmers are a different matter entirely.

    Still it does point to a likelihood that automation will further and further penetrate the biggest and most important air vehicles and this will undoubtedly eventually lead to a trickle down effect to smaller ones as well.

    So, who knows maybe automated interurban transit sooner than anyone expects.

    Probably with existing heli superstructure first passenger and emergency.

    Unfortunately, politics and public acceptance are cornerstones for something like this, but good performance at the top end will probably make it easier at the lower end as well.

    Your illustration at the start of this blog reminds me of a mechanical diorama of the city of the future in the Museum of Science and industry I saw as a child, mono rails, elevated highways and automated cars.

    Half of it was fanciful and impractical, the other half is now commonplace, about the norm I think.

    Loved Molt Taylor's Aerocar as well, I remember it from the Bob Cummings show - boy does that age me.

    And actually saw one at an airshow back then too.

    My father a pilot instructor in the airforce during WW2 took me to a lot of the many post WW2 airshows.

    Best Regards,


  • Actually I was thinking of Molt Taylor design :-)

    Résultats de recherche d'images pour « molt taylor aerocar »

    Gary, once again , you are bang on .. we are still surfing of the post ww2 personnal flying commuter.

    I posted this one because of these elements:

    - Uber is carving its place in the transportation market and on all levels : Ground , Sea and up in the Air

    - Asyou know, they made a new milestone this week, with the ''autonomous'' truck delivery of 50,000 Budweizer in Colorado

    - They have the resources and capitalization to push the envelope and experiment with all sort of designs in simulator and make them fly autonomously at full scale without having human inside.That was a totally different story with Moller, how was struggling to get more money and pushed his luck up to the point of making fake reports and movies to pursue his quest with an intrinsically flawed design, but unfortunately he could not get back to the drawing board.

    - And as you wrote, this concept is now shifting from a pure technical challenge to a safety and regulation problem. Basically this is a good sign that we might accept the fact that it is technically feasible.

    I was laughing at these concepts a few years ago, but now, big money is pouring in and the race is on... but first; regulation and legislation have to approve the autonomous car, the the autonomous Trucks, Boats, Trains,and finally the Airliner and progressively shrinking down to smaller ships.

  • Oh man, the Moller Skycar.... I remember that.  Must have been 25 years ago.

    At least that one was plausible with fuel power.  The electric VTOL flight thing is silly.

  • Shades of the Moller Skycar,

    Or possibly back a little further:


    The dream of easy personal flight has been going strong for over 80 years now, unfortunately realities, dangers, regulations and liability have really put a damper on it.

    As a matter of fact, now there are hardly any manufacturers of small light planes.

    Simply liability insurance did them in.

    Adding electric motors and computers seems to me to be unlikely to improve that situation anytime soon.

    Even if this could be done practically and reasonably, it means introducing a whole new level of public risk.

    And one that due to the expense involved would probably only benefit the 1%.

    And that is a seriously uphill battle. 

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