Melbourne has been chosen to be the third pilot city for Uber’s planned ‘urban air mobility’ service.
Test Uber Air flights will also be staged in Los Angeles and Dallas. Uber said that test flights are due to start next year, with the goal of commercial operations beginning in 2023.
The announcement was made overnight at Uber’s Elevate summit in Washington.
Uber’s regional general manager Australia, New Zealand and North Asia, Susan Anderson, said that the Victorian government had been “highly supportive” of the proposal.
“As major cities grow, the heavy reliance on private car ownership will not be sustainable,” said the global head of Uber Elevate, Eric Allison. “Uber Air holds enormous potential to help reduce road congestion. For example, the 19 kilometre journey from the CBD to Melbourne airport can take anywhere from 25 minutes to around an hour by car in peak hour but with Uber Air this will take around 10 minutes.”
Telstra CEO Andy Penn said the telco would be working with Uber on the pilot.
“We will be working closely with Uber over the next 12 months to assess what network infrastructure, connectivity requirements and other capabilities would be needed to support airspace mobility in urban centres,” Penn said.
Scentre Group has been selected as Uber Elevate’s preferred infrastructure partner in Australia.
“Today’s announcement recognises the strategic locations of our Westfield centres, which are regarded as integral social infrastructure because of their close proximity to customers, communities and transport hubs,” said Cynthia Whelan, Scentre Group’s chief strategy and business development officer.
Uber says the service will allow riders to take shared VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft between Skyports located on the tops of buildings.
Uber has entered partnerships with a number of aircraft manufacturers including Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, Pipistrel Vertical Solutions, EmbraerX, Bell, Karem Aircraft, and Jaunt Air Mobility.
The vehicles will be eVTOL: Small battery-powered, all-electric aircraft. Specifications drawn up by Uber require the vehicles to be 32 times less noisy than a traditional helicopter. The eCRM (eVTOL Common Reference Model) circulated by Uber requires each rotor on the craft to have its own electric motor, which the company says will allow an eVTOL to land safely even if two rotors are disabled.
Uber’s specification requires vehicles to have space for a pilot and three or four passenger seats, supporting a maximum payload of at least 440kg. A document circulated by the company says an eVTOL must be able to fly 60 miles while maintaining enough energy to “perform a balked landing at the original destination, divert 6 miles to an alternate landing site, and land vertically at the alternate.”