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3 min read

    3 min read

    You may have heard of ‘Uber for helicopters’ or ‘Uber for small planes’ here and there and thought – that’s crazy, who would take an Uber helicopter? How practical could that be?

    Well, Uber must think it’s practical because they’re getting more serious about it. Uber Elevate is part of the Uber platform that is currently working toward taking ridesharing to the skies. The different branches of Uber Elevate include Uber Air and Uber Copter. So, how did we get here?

    Uber Elevate

    According to Uber’s Elevate page:

    “In October 2016, the Uber Elevate founding team published a comprehensive, first-principles analysis that breaks down the critical barriers to launching a scaled, aerial ridesharing product on Uber’s platform. The whitepaper brought together the efforts of many to help catalyze what is now a vibrant industry and ecosystem of engineers, investors, policymakers, and scientists who are actively building this future.”

    uber elevate

    Image via Uber Elevate white paper (see link above)

    The general idea is to utilize the skies as a way to get people closer to their destination while avoiding heavily congested roads. Land vehicles would be used to get passengers to the starting point and to finish the travel while air acted as a faster means to get through traffic by avoiding it altogether. This is known as Uber Air.

    Originally, the launch date was set for 2023 in Los Angeles, Dallas and Melbourne, but that date is now unknown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Since Uber also has the goal of going all electric by 2040, the aerial vehicles used as part of Uber Elevate are slotted to be all-electric when/if this end of the business does launch.

    As of October, 14, 2020, it was announced that Uber has partnered with GE to help this part of the dream come to fruition. However, on October 19, 2020, it appears as though Uber is looking at alternatives, and the possibility of selling part of Elevate in a move to try to turn profitable.

    Uber Copter is the other part of Uber Elevate, and was mainly going to be a ‘three part journey’ for trips between Manhattan and JFK International Airport. Instead of a 30 minute ‘land ride’, Uber Copter promised to only be a 7 minute flight between Manhattan and JFK. Due to COVID, this service is suspended for now.

    Would You Take an Uber Air?

    Much like with autonomous vehicles, I think the general public is still a ways away from being comfortable with “everyday” aerial transit that is not orchestrated by an airport.

    There’s also no indication that I’ve found yet of how much the aerial ridesharing will cost. If it’s too much, people will continue taking cars for the entirety of their trip.

    Plus, the inconvenience of taking a car, then an aerial option and then a car again to get to their destination? That’s one reason why I’m sure many take an Uber currently, so they don’t have to shuffle between different modes of transportation—such as multiple city buses—in order to get where they want to go.

    It’s a great concept, to help ease city traffic, but will it get to the point where the air traffic will be too dense/over-crowded? Will there be enough pilots willing to fly for Uber or will these vehicles be autonomous?

    I’ll be interested to see what comes of this and if it does take off.

    Readers, would you take an Uber Air ride – now or ever?

    -Paula @ RSG

    Paula Gibbins

    Paula Gibbins

    Paula Gibbins, a graduate of Augustana University, Sioux Falls, is a part-time rideshare driver and a full-time proofreader. She is based in Minneapolis/St. Paul. In her free time, Paula enjoys reading, playing board games and participating in trivia nights.