Uber is reaching for the sky with a plan for flying taxis in Dallas and Dubai by 2020

After disrupting the taxi industry with its ride-hailing service, Uber is now reaching for the sky; the company expects to deploy flying taxis in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Dubai by 2020, said Jeff Holden, the company’s chief product officer, at the Uber Elevate Summit in Dallas today. Uber’s flying taxis will be small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically, or VTOLs, with zero emissions and quiet enough to operate in cities.

Flying taxis would reduce travel time between San Francisco’s Marina district and downtown San Jose to 15 minutes, compared with between one and two hours for the 52-mile journey by road, Uber estimates. The company believes it can bring the cost to around $1.32 per passenger mile, a little higher than taking an UberX for a similar distance, Holden said. In the longer term, Uber expects the cost of taking flying taxis to fall below car ownership.

The company is working with a property firm to create four vertiports – VTOL hubs with multiple takeoff and landing pads, and charging infrastructure – in Dallas starting next year, Holden said. Uber, valued at $68bn, has partnered with companies such as Bell Helicopter, Aurora, Pipistrel, Mooney and Embraer to make the flying taxis, and with the Dubai government, for whom it expects to conduct passenger flights as part of the World Expo in 2020.

The first flight of Uber partner Aurora’s eVTOL aircraft earlier this month.

“The Uber Elevate mission is all about low noise, high reliability, and low cost,” said Aurora chief executive John Langford. “By drawing on our nearly 30 years of successful autonomy and robotic programs, Aurora is well positioned to deliver on this urban solution. We have already built and flown the first proof-of-concept aircraft and we’re excited to partner with Uber in accelerating the eVTOL initiative.”

The partnership agreement provides the basis for a system of urban transportation solutions that will enable users of the Uber Elevate Network to request an Aurora eVTOL aircraft via Uber’s computer or mobile software applications. With the successful first test flight of the aircraft last Thursday, Langford said the goal of delivering 50 aircraft for testing by 2020 “is well within reach”.