Uber Elevate is planning to launch its Uber Air electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) ride sharing program in 2023. Los Angeles, Dallas, and Melbourne will be the three cities to launch the program. To ensure that high safety and sustainability standards are met with this innovative service, the company has partnered with GE Aviation. Simple Flying this month had the opportunity to speak with Bob Whetsell, the director of safety programs at GE Aviation Digital Solutions, about what to expect with this collaboration.
The next generation
Uber Elevate seeks to transform the way people commute through aerial ridesharing at scale. It wants to transport passengers traveling through suburbs and cities above congested traffic on the ground.
Ultimately, the deployment of eVTOL aircraft is central to this service. Unlike helicopters, these units are all-electric, a factor that is crucial to Uber Elevate’s goal of developing vehicles with a focus on safety, minimized noise, and energy efficiency.
GE Aviation and Uber Elevate hope that the partnership expands their digital innovation as the travel industry continues to evolve. Moreover, GE’s goal is to bring its experience in digital across the travel ecosystem by helping travelers reach their destination safely and efficiently.
The right software
Altogether, GE will be implementing its Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) program. This process analyzes and reviews routinely recorded flight data. Above all, operators that adopt this are better able to identify and eliminate potential safety hazards. For over two decades, FDM has helped reduce incident and accident rates at carriers and aircraft operators.
GE Aviation has worked with many major airlines across the globe. Carriers such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Lufthansa have all worked with the company on their operations. However, the Uber Air service will be a new type of project for the firm amid the revolutionary technology involved. Nonetheless, those behind the initiative are determined to ensure the best preparations are in place.
Whetsell highlights that flying in crowded cities above skyscrapers is already being done by helicopters. However, doing it with a new propulsion type, electric motors, will be improving sustainability efforts. Ultimately it will not be putting carbon dioxide back into the environment.
Flying characteristics are going to be somewhat different with these new vehicles. They’re not as heavy, and they won’t have the range that standard helicopters will have. So, the company has to be aware of things such as dispatching these platforms and how much battery life is available.
Subsequently, as part of the process, GE Aviation is talking with platform providers to find out what types of information will be available and will be recorded. So, the firm is looking forward to the opportunity to create a specially designed software package. This is specifically created for the eVTOL market.
“From our CEO, Andrew Coleman, down to our product managers, our data scientists, our engineers, this is something entirely new, and so it’s created a buzz internally through our company,” Whetsell told Simple Flying.
“We’re like little kids in a candy store, getting to play with something new if you will and to be on the leading edge of developing new technology and, most of all, promoting safety in this market. Because it is a new market, it is a new platform, the flying public has to be convinced that it’s just as safe to use and fly in one of these vehicles as it would be in your grandad’s Cessna 172 or hopping on a helicopter, taking a sightseeing tour in Las Vegas.”
One of the key things that the software will help Uber and its partners do is monitor battery life. It will assist in the monitoring of battery cycles. Moreover, eventually, in real-time, help the partners dispatch aircraft based on charge levels left on the aircraft.
Whetsell emphasizes that the motors are going to be silent. So, there won’t be any additional noise flying over neighborhoods or office buildings, distracting people at work. Moreover, one of the most important things for the firm is a zero-carbon footprint. The company feels this factor is something that a company behind a new method of transportation should be very proud of and be focusing on. Ultimately, this is one of the specific requirements that Uber had for its platform providers.
GE Aviation is undoubtedly ecstatic to be part of this project. Additionally, it is glad to have this opportunity to promote safety in this next chapter as society moves forward.
“I tell my wife every time I come home from a trip – when I land in Austin, I’ll call her on the phone and say, ‘The safest part of my journey’s over with. Now, I have to drive home.’ Well, now, I’ll be able to catch an Uber eVTOL and go home and continue that safe part of my journey,” Whetsell concluded.
“I’m very excited about that, and I know our team is. And we just are very proud and happy that Uber selected us to be a part of this.”
Altogether, along with a focus on sustainability within the aviation industry in recent times, there has been a refined emphasis on passenger safety. Therefore, the planning and processes in place for Uber Elevate’s upcoming air service could enable it to be the perfect solution in the next era of urban travel.
What are your thoughts about the upcoming Uber Air eVOTL service? Are you excited about traveling on one of these vehicles? Let us know what you think of the upcoming launch in the comment section.