Uber believes established air routes above cities will make electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft operations safer than the way conventional helicopters are flown today.
The company sees the predictability that comes with established routes as eliminating many of the unexpected situations that overwhelm and endanger helicopter pilots today, said Mark Moore, engineering director of aviation with Uber.
“One of the reasons why helicopter safety is not as good as other [aircraft] safety is because there is a high degree of operational uncertainty,” he said. “They’re not always flying on the exact same route, from one sky port to another, which is what we’re doing.”
By establishing dedicated air lanes eVTOL operators would be able to study and reduce risks along those paths, said Moore.
“We have a huge operational advantage in terms of safety where we are always repeating the same thing – a trip from a sky port to a sky port,” he said. “The geography is well known; the structures are well known; the support and sky port is known, and part of our integrated network structure.”
The addition of autonomous flight controls to assist and eventually take over eVTOL flight may also help prevent pilots from losing situational awareness or becoming overwhelmed, said Moore.
Initially, Uber envisions its urban eVTOL networks will serve a region with a 52nm (96.6km) diameter. The company would like aircraft in its network to cruise at 130kt (241km/h).
Uber plans to launch its eVTOL networks in three cities by 2023, including Los Angeles, Dallas and a yet-to-be named international city.