Is 2020 Really Possible?

Sidebars to From the Ground Up: Uber Elevate in 2020

Uber said that by the time flight demonstration programs begin in 2020, they will have to validate that they have mitigated the three biggest risks: efficient flights (airspace acceptance), noise (community acceptance) and safety (passenger acceptance). Note that Uber is not funding the development of the aircraft, but is helping to facilitate connections between investors and developers. Once the companies prove their products can operate within the Elevate network and meet the performance and economic requirements, Uber said it would be ready to put its money down and guarantee production volumes and revenues to justify the certification expense.

Uber Timeline
Uber’s plans call for an incremental approach, with just a few eVTOL aircraft flying in the demonstrations, followed by low volume production during certification. (AHS based on Uber timeline)

To make the Uber Elevate vision a reality, the flight demonstrations to begin in 2020 will require:

  1. Demonstrator aircraft:

More than two dozen organizations are currently researching electric and hybrid-electric eVTOL concepts. At least six are currently conducting full-scale flight tests, while several others are completing their aircraft or flying subscale models.

  1. Vertiport infrastructure:

Uber is working with charging companies like ChargePoint, as well as Hillwood Properties, one of the largest private real estate developers and investors in the US, to establish vertiports at company-owned sites to conduct the tests with distributed nodes around Dallas-Ft. Worth. Similar efforts are underway for Dubai.

  1. Airspace:

A key aspect of the Elevate ecosystem is the ability to seamlessly operate in Class B airspace. With high-speed, very quiet aircraft, Uber believes eVTOL aircraft will be able to operate in well-defined corridors linking the vertiports, and avoid the airspace restrictions imposed on ad hoc helicopter operations today.

  1. Regulations / Certification:

The FAA is considering fixed-wing aircraft that take off vertically to be governed under Part 23 as small aircraft. Uber said it hopes that the new eVTOL aircraft can be certified by 2023, but that it has other ways to test the Elevate network before then. In August 2017, the FAA introduced fundamental changes to Part 23 light aircraft certification rules that are designed to facilitate innovation and reduce certification costs. And EASA recently introduced “proportionality” for light aircraft, where manufacturers are allowed to build up to 10 aircraft prior to certification. The FAA is also considering this approach.

  1. Pilots or Autonomy:

Uber said it plans to fly piloted aircraft for the first five years or so to guarantee safety and develop a database of safe operations in wide-ranging conditions. For this, Uber may need tens of thousands of pilots. The company is working with groups to hire pilots with prior military aviation experience.

eVTOL Companies

The following electric VTOL aircraft are known to be under development. These include aircraft for a wide range of missions, not just applicable for Uber’s Elevate mission.

Winged (updated Aug. 19, 2017)

  1. A³ Vahana
  2. AirspaceX MOBi
  3. Aurora Flight Sciences eVTOL
  4. Aurora Flight Sciences LightningStrike
  5. Bell Helicopter (unnamed)
  6. Carter Aviation/Mooney CarterCopter
  7. DeLorean Aerospace DR-7
  8. Flexcraft (unnamed)
  9. HopFlyt (unnamed)
  10. HoverSurf Drone Taxi R-1
  11. JAXA Hornisse 2B
  12. Joby Aviation S4
  13. Lilium Jet
  14. Pipistrel (unnamed)
  15. Terrafugia TF-X
  16. XTI Aircraft Trifan 600
  17. Zee Aero Z-P1

Wingless (updated Aug. 19, 2017)

  1. Airbus Helicopters CityAirbus
  2. Bartini Flying Car
  3. Cartivator SkyDrive
  4. EHang 184
  5. Jetpack Aviation (unnamed)
  6. Kitty Hawk Flyer
  7. Neva Aerospace AirQuadOne
  8. Volocopter VC200 / 2X
  9. Workhorse SureFly

Detailed information on each of these companies and concepts — and the latest eVTOL news — is available at www.eVTOL.news/aircraft.

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