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Uber hires NASA engineer to help develop unmanned flying taxis

Mon 6 Feb 2017


Uber has hired former NASA engineer Mark Moore to join its team of flying car developers at Uber Elevate.

Moore, who worked at NASA as an advanced aircraft engineer, penned a 2010 paper titled NASA Puffin Electric Tailsitter VTOL Concept, which sparked current interest around helicopter-style vehicles.

The engineer is to assume the position of Director of Engineering at Uber Elevate – the ride-hailing company’s unit responsible for research into airborne on-demand journeys.

The NASA veteran was hired following collaboration on a recent Uber white paper which detailed its exploration into vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. Moore was reportedly impressed with Uber’s investigatory work around the subject and hopped on the chance to develop an idea he had originally described years before.

According to a Bloomberg report, Moore’s decision to join Uber was encouraged by the tech company’s practical business case for the flying transport service – and noted that the vision would need strong market motivation to become an operational reality.

Uber has not hidden its desire to lead the market in ‘on-demand aviation’ and imagines a future where small electrically-powered urban vehicles take off and land vertically. It suggests that these transit aircraft would have a range between 50 and 100 miles on a single charge.

The idea is that these vehicles will operate autonomously, responding to requests from commuters on the ground via the Uber app. Moore, however, notes that initial models will feature human pilots.

VTOL aircraft are also being explored by two Larry Page-backed startups, as well as commercial aviation company Airbus through its Vahana project. The concepts hope to eradicate issues around congestion and ground-based traffic, but also lead to significant cost efficiencies.

Uber announced in its white paper that it will host a VTOL summit later this year to help inspire interest in the Elevate research and coordinate industry efforts to achieve an on-demand VTOL transit system.


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