After three months of discussions, Uber Elevate has selected The University of Texas at Austin as its partner alongside the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to develop new rotor technology for vehicles that the company will use in its uberAIR flying taxi network. The news is the latest step in Ubers plans to get demonstration flights off the ground in the megalopolises of Dallas-Ft. Worth, Los Angeles and Dubai. The ultimate goal is to have uberAIR services commercially available in those cities by 2023. To achieve that, Uber has set up some rigorous specifications for its vehicle and the traffic management system used to operate uberAIR, developed in conjunction with several aircraft manufacturers and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Specifically for the vehicle, Uber is requiring a fully electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle that has a cruising speed of 150 to 200 miles per hour; a cruising altitude of 1,000 to 2,000 feet; and a range of up to 60 miles for a single charge. The company isnt the only one racing to own the sky taxi space for urban transport. Chinese drone manufacturer Ehang; Aston Martin; Rolls-Royce; Audi and Airbus and other, smaller, startup vendors are all trying to make flying vehicles. Ehang has been touting manned test flights of its drone already. Watch Ehangs passenger drone take flightUber, on the other hand, is trying to build out the service in much the same way it did with car hailing so many years ago. The company actually unveiled its thoughts on air travel and design a few months ago at its Elevate conference. At UT, a research team led by Professor Jayant Sirohi, one of the countrys experts on unmanned drone technology, VTOL aircraft, and fixed- and rotary-wing elasticity, will examine the efficacy of a new flying technology, which uses two rotor systems stacked on top of one another and rotating in the same direction. Called co-rotating rotors, the new technology will be tested for its efficiency and noise signature, according to a statement from the university. Preliminary tests have shown the potential for these rotors to work better than other approaches while also improving versatility for an aircraft. Theres a lot of things to be done, said Sirohi. We are not doing vehicles. Were doing a specific rotor system on one of the engineering common reference models that Uber has released. The reference model is a benchmark for what the aircraft should do in field tests and eventually operations, Sirohi said. We are pursuing these technologies to see what the gaps are in where we are today and where we need to be, Sirohi said.
The university's researchers will examine rotor technology. Uber has added the University of Texas at Austin to its list of partners as it tries to turn its flying taxis into a reality. The company is also working with the US Army Research Laboratory on a project to develop rotor technology for the vehicles. Uber wants to start testing UberAIR cabs by 2020 and have commercial service in its launch cities of Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Dubai by 2023. Uber has laid out some demanding specs for the vehicles, especially considering that the cabs have to ferry around up to four human beings. The electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles should have a cruising speed of between 150-200 miles per hour; a range of up to 60 miles on one charge; and a cruising altitude between 1,000 and 2,000 feet. Uber developed those specs alongside NASA and several aerospace companies. To help Uber hit those benchmarks, a research team from UT's Cockrell School of Engineering will examine the effectiveness and noise levels of a new system in which dual rotors, stacked on top of each other, rotate in the same direction. Initial testing has indicated this may be more efficient than other approaches, and the researchers are looking at how well the rotor system works on one of Uber's reference models. Uber is paying the university around $185,000 for 18 months of work, according to the Austin Business Journal.