Uber looks to the skies for future transportation

Uber says it has plans to roll out on-demand aviation where commuters can hop onto a small aircraft, take off vertically and within minutes arrive at their destinations.

A vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (VTOL) leaves a heliport in an artist's rendition released by ride-sharing company Uber in San Francisco, California, US October 27 2016.

Online transportation service provider Uber said it believes the future of transportation will be in the skies.

The service says it has plans for commuters to hop onto a small aircraft, take off vertically and within minutes arrive at their destination.

It intends to roll out its first prototype aircraft in 2026.

Uber sees its flying model as feasible and would eventually include unmanned aircraft.

Uber already offers helicopter rides to commuters in Brazil.

The company plans to convene a global summit early next year to explore on-demand aviation, in which a small electric aircraft would take off and land vertically to reduce congestion and save time for long-distance commuters, and eventually city dwellers.

Vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL) have been studied and developed for decades, including by aircraft makers, the US military, NASA and the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Uber is already exploring self-driving technology, hoping to slash costs by eliminating the need for drivers in its core business of on-demand rides.

On-demand air transport marks a new frontier, set squarely in the future.

Uber detailed its vision in a 97-page document, arguing that on-demand aviation will be affordable and achievable in the next decade assuming effective collaboration between regulators, communities and manufacturers.

Uber said on-demand VTOL aircraft would be "optionally piloted," and autonomous technology would take over the main workload.

Obstacles to overcome include battery technology.

Batteries must come down in cost and charge faster, become more powerful and have longer lifecycles.

Regulatory hurdles must also be solved such as certification by aviation regulators as well as infrastructure needs, such as more takeoff and landing sites.

Uber plans to reach out to stakeholders within the next six months to explore the implications of urban air transport and share ideas before hosting a summit in early 2017 to explore the issues and solutions and help accelerate urban air transportation.

TRTWorld and agencies