Uber Is Researching Vertical-Takeoff Aircrafts For Urban Commutes

It's a radical solution to congestion.

Gravity is the ultimate restriction on urban travel. So it figures that Uber, the world’s most disruptive transportation service, wants to go vertical.

Speaking to Recode’s Kara Swisher on stage on Sunday, products chief Jeff Holden revealed the firm is exploring vertical-takeoff and landing (VTOL) tech.

VTOLs can do everything helicopters can - hover, vertical takeoffs and landings – but with fixed wings, more rotors and, in some cases, battery power.

Eventually, the crafts could also become autonomous, just like their four-wheeled counterparts.

Airbus's CityAirbus concept.
Airbus's CityAirbus concept.

Holden said researching VTOL makes sense “so we can someday offer our customers as many options as possible to move around”.

He envisages journeys between city centre rooftops, stretching the concept of a short haul flight to its absolute limit - space hoppers aside.

Realising that vision would slash commutes and reduce traffic on the roads.

The idea might sound like it’s grounded more in sci-fi than reality, but the technology is advancing pretty rapidly.

Airbus is developing a CityAirbus for testing in 2017. Meanwhile, EHang already has permission to trial its all-electric, autonomous, personal quadcopter.

But urban airspaces are strictly regulated. Building the crafts will be significantly easier than getting permission to roll them out.

Nevertheless, Holden sees it as a way of achieving Uber’s ultimate ambition: the end of private car ownership: “It could change cities and how we work and live.”