Uber, Army look at tech for flying cars







An artist’s rendering of the Uber flying taxi concept in this handout image provided to Reuters. Photo credit: Uber/Handout via REUTERS

DETROIT — Uber Technologies Inc. said on Tuesday it would work with the U.S. Army to advance research on a novel, quiet aircraft rotor technology that could be used in future flying cars, or military aircraft.

The alliance highlights stepped-up efforts by Uber and other companies to transform flying cars from a science fiction concept to real hardware for residents of mega-cities where driving is a time-consuming bore.

Uber and the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering command said in a statement. They expect to spend $1 million to develop and test prototypes for a rotor system that would be used on a vertical take-off and landing vehicle.

The system would have two rotors stacked on top of each other, rotating in the same direction under the command of sophisticated software. This approach, which Uber and the Army said had not been deployed in a production aircraft, could lead to quieter operation than conventional stacked rotor systems.

“Achieving ultra-low noise is one of the critical obstacles” to deploying aerial taxis in urban areas, Rob McDonald, head of vehicle engineering for Uber Elevate, the company’s flying car operation, said in an interview.

The Army wants to develop a new generation of unmanned drones that do not need runways and are quieter than current drones, said Jaret Riddick, director of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Vehicle Technology Directorate.

The Army is increasingly turning to partnerships with private companies to research advanced technology, Riddick said in an interview.

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