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Updated 2:00 PM EDT, Wed, May 20, 2020

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Uber Mulls Vision of Uber VTOL Aircraft Flying Passengers Practically Anywhere

Taxi!

(Photo : DARPA) Could be what Uber's sky taxi will look like

Having conquered land transportation, Uber has grand plans of conquering the air with flying cars it'll hire out, of course.

Uber apparently sees the airways as roadways and its plan to take the lead in and later dominate this new service will be to build its own flying car. Enter the VTOL car or vertical take-off and landing car.

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VTOL, a five decades-old technology, is an aircraft that can hover, take off and land vertically. Unlike helicopters, however, VTOLs have multiple rotors and fixed wings. The Harrier Jump Jet operated by the U.S. Marines is an example of a VOTL aircraft.

Uber products head Jeff Holden said Uber is seriously looking at a new form of transportation for its envisioned short-haul flying service in cities.

He said he's been researching VTOLs, "so we can someday offer our customers as many options as possible to move around." He noted "doing it in a three-dimensional way is an obvious thing to look at."

He believes VTOLs flying highways in the sky might see the light of day within a decade, which seems a pipe dream given the current state of technology and laws limiting flying over densely populated areas like cities. Then there will be objections from the insurance industry and homeland security, as well.

Holden seems beholden of the idea because VTOLs can land virtually anywhere: building roofs, vacant lots, community streets and even a backyard if it's big enough.

One of the closest existing technologies to the Uber VTOLs is the experimental "LightningStrike" unmanned VTOL from Virginia-based firm, Aurora Flight Sciences. Last March, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded the company the prime contract for Phase 2 of the DARPA's Vertical Takeoff and Landing Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program.               

This program seeks to provide a 50 percent increase in speed over existing VTOL aircraft. Aurora plans to conduct the first flight tests of a technology demonstrator VTOL in 2018.

LightningStrike is being designed or use by the U.S. military, however. It has 24 ducted fans distributed on both the wings and canards.

The aircraft's electric distributed propulsion system consists of highly integrated, distributed ducted fans enable the design's potentially revolutionary hover efficiency and high-speed forward flight.  

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