And now Uber unveils its prototype electric vertical takoff and and landing (eVTOL) vehicle for a flying taxi service that it will begin testing in Dallas and Dubai in 2020. The vehicle is being developed in partnership with Aurora Flight Sciences, Bell Helicopter, and Embraer.

Announcements from the companies:

First flight of Aurora’s eVTOL aircraft on April 20, 2017.
(PRNewsfoto/Aurora Flight Sciences)

From the Aurora release:

Aurora’s eVTOL concept is derived from its XV-24A X-plane program currently underway for the U.S. Department of Defense and other autonomous aircraft the company has developed over the years.  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 program, and the battery electric propulsion system from the XV-24A demonstrator to create the innovative eVTOL design.

“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.”

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 applications. With the successful first test flight of the aircraft on April 20, 2017, the goal of delivering 50 aircraft for testing by 2020 is well within reach.

Bell Helicopter background overview:

Uber will be working with Bell Helicopter as a collaborator to accelerate the eventual large-scale deployment of electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOLs) in order to fulfill its mission ofproviding a safe, reliable transportation service to everyone, everywhere.

Additional details include

 ● Uber plans to operate a network through which electric VTOL vehicles in numerous cities worldwide will provide transportation and delivery logistics services.

● Bell Helicopter plans to develop technologies that will lead to aircraft that satisfy short distance urban operations. Bell’s initial propulsion technology focus is expected to be hybrid electric with an eventual goal of fully electric.

● Uber will participate in the development of airspace control software and hardware for themanagement of Pilot VTOLs on the Elevate Network, and provide interface connectivity with airspace controllers/regulators.

● Bell Helicopter is an industry-leading producer of commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical-lift aircraft and the pioneer of the revolutionary tiltrotor aircraft. Among otherprojects, Bell is exploring new opportunities in the future of air transportation with electric and hybrid VTOL aircraft.

A sample of articles:

Update: Here is a video of the Uber Elevate Summit conference presentations and panel discussions: