Flying Uber trial to take place in Melbourne from 2020

Marco Green
June 12, 2019

Melbourne will be the first city outside the USA to host trials of Uber Air, a service the company describes as "aerial ridesharing" that will shuttle people from rooftop to rooftop for the price of an UberX.

A number of aviation companies are now prototyping vertical take-off and land (VTOL) aircraft - essentially helicopters - to be used as part of the Uber Air service.

Susan Anderson, regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia, said Melbourne was selected for its "unique demographic and geospatial factors", but "we will see other Australian cities following soon after".

While the dream of door-to-door air taxi services lives on, it seems Uber is now planning to operate its intra-city flights between Melbourne Airport and major shopping centres around the city.

The really wild part is that Uber plans on starting test flights as early as 2020 and hopes to have the program commercially viable and available to the public by 2023 - which, if you couldn't tell, is an incredibly short timeline.

The first test city, originally planned to be Dubai, will now be Melbourne, Australia, as the company announced today.

"This, coupled with Melbourne's unique demographic and geospatial factors ... makes Melbourne the flawless third launch city for Uber Air".

Uber has proposed using auto park roofs - including those of shopping centres - and existing helipads to run the service.

This calculus has something to do with "autonomous scale manufacturing" of the helicopters, and increased use of them for heli-pooling.

VTOLs would make use of "autonomy technology" to reduce the risk of operator error.

The big unveiling came during the Uber Elevate Summit, the company's conference happening this week in Washington DC that's all about the flying taxi service.

CASA previously said the project was possible under the existing regulatory framework and could be introduced within five years.

Uber expects the second-most popular route will be between Melbourne and Geelong, a 75km trip that takes over an hour by vehicle but would be cut to less than 20 minutes by air.

Airbus is trialling its own air taxi service using a prototype electric aircraft, similar to a drone, which can take off and land vertically.

Macquarie's role would be around "the development and electrification of the skyports that will support" Uber's air taxis.

Uber Chopper subsidised $1,000 one-way helicopter flights from Batman Park to Flemington Racecourse during last year's Melbourne Cup Carnival.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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