Uber to launch helicopter service in NYC next month

Corey Johnson

Even as Uber announced Melbourne, Australia as its first global city for the expansion of its futuristic flying taxi service Uber Air, a top company executive said that India continues to be an important market for this vertical.

"We will see other Australian cities following soon after".

"Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology", Uber Australia, New Zealand and North Asia general manager Susan Anderson said in a statement.

So, why Melbourne? It's not Australia's largest or most cosmopolitan city, though it's reasonably close on both counts.

"As major cities grow, the heavy reliance on private vehicle ownership will not be sustainable", said Eric Allison, global head of the firm's aviation division Uber Elevate.

Although Anderson said the Victorian government has been "highly supportive", Uber's breakthrough into the state was not met without regulatory troubles.

A concept for Uber's electric "flying taxi" project, due to launch in Melbourne in 2020.

In Melbourne, Uber is working with Westfield shopping centres owner Scentre Group, which has seven centres in the city, to help deliver its service.

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Uber's planned air fleet includes electric jet-powered vehicles - part helicopter, part drone and part fixed-wing aircraft - running multiple small rotors capable of both vertical take-off and landing and rapid horizontal flight.

The really wild part is that Uber plans on starting test flights as early as 2020 and hopes to have the program commercially viable and available to the public by 2023 - which, if you couldn't tell, is an incredibly short timeline.

"This, coupled with Melbourne's unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the flawless third launch city for UberAir".

Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn said his company's 5G network would be used by travellers to order Uber Air services.

The news came at the Uber Elevate Summit in Washington, where the California-based ride-hailing giant offered new details on its vision for flying taxis as a way to ease traffic congestion and improve urban mobility.

This calculus has something to do with "autonomous scale manufacturing" of the helicopters, and increased use of them for heli-pooling.

"Together with Safran Cabin, we've designed for the first time in history, a bespoke aircraft cabin that is truly mission-driven for aerial ridesharing on Uber Air", said John Badalamenti, Uber Elevate's head of design.

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