Aurora Flight Sciences is to partner with Uber in the development of the world’s first network of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft.
The formal announcement of initiative partners (including Bell Helicopter and Embraer) took place on April 25, 2017 at Uber’s Elevate Summit in Dallas, Texas.
By utilising repurposed rooftops, existing helipads and unused land surrounding highway interchanges the proposed Uber Elevate Network is intended to provide affordable, on-demand urban transportation and delivery logistics services.
“The Uber Elevate mission is all about low noise, high reliability, and low cost,” said Aurora CEO John Langford. “By drawing on our nearly 30 years of successful autonomy and robotic programs, Aurora is well positioned to deliver on this urban solution. We have already built and flown the first proof-of-concept aircraft and we’re excited to partner with Uber in accelerating the eVTOL initiative.”
Aurora’s eVTOL concept is derived from its XV-24A X-plane program currently in progress for the US Department of Defense and other autonomous aircraft the company has developed.
Aurora has adapted and combined the autonomous flight guidance system from its Centaur optionally-piloted aircraft, the perception and collision avoidance system from the AACUS autonomous helicopter program, and the battery electric propulsion system from the XV-24A demonstrator to create the eVTOL design.
The partnership agreement provides the basis for a system of urban transportation solutions that will enable users of the Uber Elevate Network to request an Aurora eVTOL aircraft via Uber’s computer or mobile software apps.
The successful first test flight of the aircraft took place on April 20, 2017. The program aims to deliver 50 aircraft for testing by 2020.