The Elevate program is created to facilitate more rapid commute times by employing vertical take-off and landing technology (VTOL) to utilize urban airspaces.
Uber's plans for a flying service were first hinted at in September 2016 by Uber's Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden.
The ride-hailing service has hired veteran NASA engineer Mark Moore as director of engineering for aviation, according to Bloomberg News. Even without funding to build one of his designs, Moore became synonymous with flying auto technology, so much so that he consulted Uber on its research that ended up in its VTOL white paper, Bloomberg reported. "A network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically (called VTOL aircraft for Vertical Take-off and Landing, and pronounced vee-tol), will enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities", Uber said in the document. Moore consulted on the paper and was impressed by the company's vision and potential impact.
Moore, whose 2010 white paper focused specifically on electric VTOL concepts, chose to leave NASA for Uber because, as he told Bloomberg News, he "can't think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL market real". And Moore said VTOL craft companies would have to lobby politicians for more lenient air-traffic controls and quicker vehicle certifications. ("We don't need stinking bridges!" says Moore.) These air taxis will only need ranges of between 50 to 100 miles, and Moore thinks that they can be at least partially recharged while passengers are boarding or exiting the aircraft.
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In his move to Uber, NASA seems to have lost one of its biggest proponents of this technology. He would have been eligible for retirement in a year if he stayed at NASA.
Moore himself was encouraged by Uber's work in the field and, after helping the ridesharing giant craft its VTOL white paper in October, he chose to leave NASA after 30 years for a top spot at Uber.