Uber has gotten a lot of media attention for its experiments with autonomous cars, and now it’s ready to explore the potential of moving people around urban areas using electric-powered VTOL aircraft, creating a new project last year called Uber Elevate. NASA engineer Mark Moore, who has been with the agency for nearly 30 years, has been hired to lead Uber’s effort, Moore said this week. “My position at Uber will be to knock down the barriers,” Moore told AVweb in an email on Tuesday. “Key among the goals is to achieve at least a 10 to 15 dB reduction in community noise from what helicopters achieve today … Also achieving at least an automobile level of safety right from the start.”
Moore said new VTOL designs now in development will be able to operate with one-tenth the energy consumption of traditional helicopters, using distributed electric propulsion. The vehicles also will be cheap to maintain, and if they fly as part of a fleet with high utilization of up to 2,000 hours per year, they can drop operating costs to one-quarter that of helicopters. “Altogether it seems clear that compared to helicopters operated today, the costs can drop by a factor of 4x and put electric VTOL into the realm of mainstream transportation when you account for the value of time saved,” Moore wrote.
Uber’s objective is not to develop their own vehicle, Moore said, but to bring the entire urban electric VTOL community ecosystem together, “to make this market real at a much faster pace than could otherwise be achieved by each of these companies working alone,” he said. “It’s an incredible, exciting time because of the rapidly developing technologies.” Moore’s new title at Uber will be director of engineering for aviation. AVweb‘s Mary Grady talked with Moore about NASA’s emerging technologies last year; you can listen to the podcast here.