Uber, the famous ridesharing app, is about to open the skies for regular folks with the launch of Uber Air; Flying ride-share taxis ready to whisk you away at the push of a button.
What are the details?
The silicon valley giant Uber is planning on launching an ‘air-taxi’ service in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Melbourne. Australia managed to beat out other cities in the contest, including Brazil, India, Japan, and France.
Passengers will be able to order a helicopter upon arriving at the airport to take them as close as possible to their final destination, much like the New York JFK Airport-Downtown helicopter link.
Uber has said that test flights will begin in Melbourne in 2020, with the full service online by 2023. From success in Melbourne, Uber hopes to roll out the service to other Australian cities.
“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology,” said Susan Anderson, regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia to ABC. “This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the perfect third launch city for Uber Air. We will see other Australian cities following soon after.”
Melbourne is a perfect city to begin tests, with a largely affluent population, plenty of space for helicopters to land (including a landing pad on the river right in the heart of downtown) and an airport that only has road access (and thus is subject to road and traffic conditions).
“The 19km 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,” – Uber spokesman Eric Allison to the Guardian.
Uber already runs a ‘Uber Chopper’ Helicopter service in Dubai, linking the airport to various terminals around the city.
What approvals does Uber need?
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia (CASA) has been quick to point out that Uber has a strict set of requirements to meet before they can issue a license to launch this service.
- Safety certification for any new aircraft. Uber is suggesting that a cutting edge battery aircraft will be used for the service (to save on fuel), but as this aircraft is yet to be built and tested in Australia, there is a long road to getting it certified.
- Airspace and routes would have to be preplanned; Uber would not be allowed to simply fly wherever they want over the city.
- Uber would have to employ pilots, rather than just allowing anyone to sign up with their own car as they do for ground-based services.
- Uber will need to sort out their ground process, including where they can land, having staff on site and ensuring that they pay the required landing fees.
Will it actually happen?
Uber has a long way to go to make this service a reality. They want to be the new option linking the city and airports but are relying on untested technology that doesn’t yet exist and infrastructure that has yet to be built. But Australian’s can’t wait for the service and are pushing ahead in earnest.
“Victorians have a can-do attitude and we hope Uber Air will give us the altitude to match it,” – Tim Pallas, Victorian government treasurer to the Guardian.
What do you think? Will you fly in Uber Air? Let us know in the comments.