Uber hires NASA engineer to help develop unmanned flying taxis

Posted February 07, 2017

In an interview, Holden shared his interest in "vertical takeoff and landing" vehicles (VTOL), claiming, "It could change cities and how we work and live". One Uber official even suggests we could have flying cars in the next decade.

Mark Moore is a 30-year NASA veteran who left the aeronautics space agency to work for Uber's new flying vehicle project called the Uber Elevate.

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It has to be noted that Moore won't exactly be building flying cars for Uber...yet. Last October, the company released a white paper that envisioned a flying taxi service as a network of lightweight, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically from preexisting urban heliports and skyscraper rooftops.

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". It was his research paper which inspired people like Larry Page (Google's founder), to launch their own flying auto startups like Kitty Hawk and Zee Aero in late 2016. The ride-hailing company wants "to play whatever role is most helpful to accelerate this industry's development", the company wrote in an outline.

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While NASA is larded with layers of bureaucracy and management, Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick has been closely involved in hatching his company's flying auto plans, Moore says. He will be working directly for one of the company's initiatives called Uber Elevate, according to Bloomberg, which has a main goal of utilizing unused airspace for transportation purposes. And Moore said VTOL craft companies would have to lobby politicians for more lenient air-traffic controls and quicker vehicle certifications. Certainly no one less passionate than Moore would ever be able to give up on a good portion of his pension and a free lifelong health care support.

VTOL aircraft are also being explored by two Larry Page-backed startups, as well as commercial aviation company Airbus through its Vahana project. "It's the federal government who is best positioned to overcome extremely high levels of risks", he says.

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