Uber Elevate to launch aerial taxi service in India
01 September 2018
Taxi hailing platform Uber is looking to introduce flying taxis in India. The Uber team conveyed this to union minister of state for aviation Jayant Sinha during a meeting on Tuesday.
In may this year, the company’s aerial arm Uber Elevate unveiled the battery-powered flying taxis, which it hopes to launch commercial service come 2023 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Los Angeles in the US.
Recalling his meeting with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in February this year, Sinha said, “When I met him, I had stressed on the need to do so. Now, Uber has informed me that India is one of the five countries they are evaluating for launching air taxis.” The development was confirmed after Sinha met Uber’s business officer (India and emerging markets) Madhu Kannan on 28 August.
When Uber first revealed a common reference model for its flying taxis, the concept was reported to be all-electric, which accommodates four people, including a pilot, in a cylindrical body with large windows.
Uber’s flying taxi is said to cruise at between 150 and 200 miles per hour, and soar up to 2,000 feet above. A single charge will be good enough for 60 miles of range, and Uber expects the thing to need just five minutes to top up the batteries between flights. Initially, they’ll have a human pilot, but eventually, they should be autonomous.
The US-headquartered Uber had signed an agreement with NASA to explore concepts and technologies related to urban air mobility (UAM) for future air transportation in populated areas.
Similar flying taxi project, named after a Sanskrit word vahana meaning vehicle has been initiated by European manufacturer Airbus. The project completed its first full-scale test flight in Oregon, US, on 31 January this year. Vahana, a fully electric vehicle, is designed to carry a single passenger or cargo, and scale a height of five metres for a duration of 53 seconds.
Even IIT-Kanpur researchers and VTOL Aviation India Pvt Ltd has entered into an MoU for investing up to $2.2 million (Rs15 crore) for developing a flying taxi prototype — a self-piloted vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) craft. The IIT-Kanpur aerospace department is equipped with a state-of-the-art facility to conduct research activities in aerospace, and is fitted with wind tunnels and flight labs capable of testing aircraft.
The union ministry of civil aviation has recently released Drone Regulations 1.0 – the standard regulations for operating drones in the country, aimed at enabling safe, commercial usage of such taxis.
The DRONE Regulations will enable safe, commercial usage of drones starting 1 December 2018. It is intended to enable visual line-of-sight, daytime-only operations to a maximum altitude of 400 feet.
Going forward, the Drone Task Force formed under the chairmanship of aviation minister Sinha has been tasked to provide draft recommendations for Drone Regulations 2.0. These regulations will examine issues such as certification of safe and controlled operation of drone hardware and software.
Uber Elevate has shortlisted India, Japan, Australia, Brazil and France, that could be home to the first international Uber Air City within the next five years. It said that the company is looking for a large polycentric market with a metropolitan population over one million people to establish the proposed Air City.
“In pursuit of our first international launch market, we are announcing a shortlist of five countries where Uber Air can immediately transform transportation and take our technology to new heights,” Uber Aviation programs head Eric Allison said.