7 December 2020

Uber Elevate: How Vertical Aircrafts Could Help The Taxi Industry

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 21 seconds. Contains 670 words

What are Vertical Aircrafts?

Flying cars have long been synonymous with the vision of the future, dating almost as far back as the invention of the car itself. Whilst we may still currently be very far from purchasing our own flying vehicles, the technology itself is almost here to transport us around the country.

Many different companies across the world have been working hard to develop technology that will help us commute from city to city, and avoid busy traffic on the road. However, these vehicles will not be literal cars that float on their own. They will each take the appearance of a miniature aircraft. Instead of relying on wings to fly, it uses propellers to take off and land vertically from rooftops. These vehicles are known as VTOL aircrafts, short for Vertical Take-Off and Landing.

Uber has been one of the companies at the forefront of this technology, under their subsidiary division “Uber Elevate”, with plans to launch in Los Angeles, Dallas and Melbourne as early as 2023. Each aircraft will contain 4 passenger seats and will be fully wheelchair accessible.

Elsewhere in Europe, other major companies working on this technology include the German group Lilium, who aims to start taking flights by around the year 2025. Here in the UK, Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace aims to start flights from London to Brighton by 2024.

Whilst similar in design to helicopters, one fundamental difference is noise. Helicopters are usually incredibly loud and potentially damaging to the ears, and a lot more environmentally pollutant. VTOL aircrafts aim to make use of electric propulsion so they have zero operational emissions. They are also expected to be quiet enough to blend in with background noise in large cities. This will avoid causing disruption to local residents.

What are their aims?

One of the major aims of VTOL aircrafts is to facilitate travel between cities, especially for daily commuters. Uber Elevate plans to build designated “Skyports” within the centre of major cities. These Skyports would be airport-like facilities with air taxis taking off and landing on the roof. They would also consist of a waiting area, along with shopping and dining facilities underneath. There are also hopes to convert the roofs of existing skyscrapers into Skyports to facilitate access for daily commuters. Roofs of parking garages are also hoped to be converted.

As well as large Skyport hubs, Uber also hopes to introduce “Vertistops” across the network. A single VTOL take-off/landing pad with charging infrastructure.

Using a VTOL aircraft, a 2 hour car journey could be reduced to just 15 minutes in the air. This would be extremely beneficial for long distance commuters and those heading for business meetings. Families looking for a fun day out will be able to make good use of the facilities too.

How will this benefit taxi drivers?

Whilst the very idea of flying taxis is to take people off the roads and into the air, commuters and travellers are likely going to need transport to get to the Skyports prior to their flights. With Uber being one of the companies at the helm of this technology, they’ll likely be eager to encourage passengers to use their ride-sharing facilities to get passengers to and from the Skyport.

Back before the pandemic hit, airport runs were one of the most exciting tasks of a taxi driver. This is because an airport run usually means a higher pay for the trip. With the introduction of VTOLs, we could soon see the introduction of Skyport runs, especially for those who are travelling long distances.

One advantage of VTOL aircrafts over other methods of local transport is the lack of roads to be maintained. There’s no chance of a delay over fractured railway, traffic jams or a broken down train. This means there’s the potential for more frequent, faster journeys, and more passengers taking this mode of transport.

As of writing, it is not known whether or not this technology will eventually allow users to take their own personalised trips to a destination of their choosing. However, as the technology is continually evolving, anything is possible!


London Skyline (124408655)” by Ilya Grigorik, used under CC BY-SA 3.0 Modified from Original

Boeing Experimental Flying Taxi” by ‘Brizio, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 / Modified from Original

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