Here’s What Uber’s Answer to Airports Might Look Like
Flying taxis are closer and closer to being a reality, and that begs the question: Where will they take off and land?
According to Uber, its future vehicles will be able to operate like a traditional helicopter. At first, Uber wanted to convert existing structures into places where future air taxis could take off and land, but it has now revealed plans to build its own Skyports at its third annual Elevate conference in Washington DC. That adds another massive and costly element to making flying cars a reality.
Eight architecture and design firms released concepts of what a potential Skyport could look like and function. From more bespoke options to a parking-structure retrofit, the designs go across the spectrum.
Uber plans to launch commercial air taxi flights in 2023 in Los Angeles, Dallas and Melbourne, Australia. However, using an Uber air taxi won't be like ordering a car that shows up on demand and comes to your exact location.
Flights can't just land anywhere because of the vehicle's size, which can create serious safety and noise issues. That's where Skyports come in. They'll have dedicated spaces for Uber Air taxis to take off and land, with some concepts designed to accommodate up to 72 round-trip flights per hour.
The head of Uber Elevate, Eric Allison, told TPG that some of the first SkyPorts could be located in airports since those are such heavily trafficked routes for normal Uber rides.
But Uber wants them to be more than just that — they'll hopefully function as a center for all of Uber's vehicles to meet together. So that means places to pick up and drop off passengers in cars, and charging and parking stations for dockless scooters and bikes.
They may even have VIP drop-off areas and space for amenities like shops and restaurants. A Skyport lounge is a possibility too, said Jon Pickcard, Principal of Pickcard Chilton, a Connecticut architecture firm which designed a Skyport concept.
Uber just announced a partnership with Signature Flight Support, which will will facilitate ground operations and Skyport infrastructure for Uber Air. Signature is a large fixed-base operator for private aviation, providing services like fueling and maintenance. Signature will also provide services for Uber Copter, which will launch in New York City next month with helicopter flights between lower Manhattan and JFK airport.
While these renderings do look attractive and provide a glimpse into the future of aviation and intra-city travel, they'll require huge cash investments and approval from multiple regulatory and government bodies. These roadblocks could mean they end up looking much different than what's displayed today.