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Airbus start-up to launch helicopter venture with Uber

An Airbus innovation start-up in Silicon Valley has teamed up with ride-sharing service Uber to supply helicopters for a new on-demand transportation service, Airbus Group chief executive Tom Enders announced on 17 January.

A3, an Airbus-sponsored venture capital fund an innovation center, will provide Airbus H125 and H130 light helicopters to the Uber collaboration as one of its first projects.

The goal of the programme is “proving out a new business model for helicopter operators to access a broader customer base”, Airbus says.

Though a new collaboration, on-demand helicopter transportation has been gaining momentum in several markets. In New York City, Gotham Air and Blade already compete to offer helicopter flights on a per-seat basis.

Uber has itself used helicopter rides in several promotions around the world, in which the on-demand car service partners with local helicopter operators to offer rides during special events. But never before has Uber partnered with a helicopter supplier to offer a non-temporary service.

Speaking to reporters in Munich on 17 January, Enders offered only that the service would be launched in “several weeks”.

The ride-sharing service also marks a public debut for A3, the execution arm of a new venture capital fund. In a bid to learn and emulate the rapid innovation culture of Silicon Valley, Airbus established Airbus Ventures last year with a $150 million fund. The venture capital firm spent several months forming a staff and reviewing proposals, but now has begun making investments.

In addition to the Uber collaboration, Airbus Ventures also has announced a first investment in an Arizona-based motor vehicle company called Local Motors, which relies on a global network of micro-factories. Airbus’ investment will have Local Motors set-up a similar cluster of micro-factories and laboratories in Germany that are to focus on aerospace, Airbus says.

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