Langford: Uber Vision ‘Doable’

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Uber drew lots of attention this week with their three-day Elevate conference about how to create an urban network of flying taxis by 2020, but as ambitious as their goals are, John Langford, the CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, says they are “doable.” The vision won’t come to pass, though, he told AVweb in an interview from the conference, unless there’s a deadline. “It’s a little bit like going to Mars — it’s certainly possible, but it’s always 20 years away,” he said. By setting a near-term challenge and helping to spur investment, Langford said the 2020 milestone can help to get a demo system up and running, and once people see how it works, they will want to travel that way.

Aurora unveiled its own electric VTOL aircraft at the show, with video of a quarter-scale vehicle that flew for the first time last week. Aurora’s concept is derived from its XV-24A X-plane program currently underway for the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as other autonomous aircraft the company has developed over the years. It takes off vertically, powered by a series of rotors, then transitions to horizontal flight, driven by a tail-mounted propeller. Langford said the full-scale vehicle will be fully autonomous, but for initial operations it will be controlled by an onboard pilot operating a keyboard or touchscreen — there won’t be any control stick or rudder pedals, he said.

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