AUSTIN, Texas -- UT engineers have unveiled a rotor that will likely help to launch UberAir's aerial vehicles.
"Rather than starting from scratch which would have taken two years easily, we were able to come in and they were able to make some fairly minor modifications and basically hit the ground running," said Rob McDonald with Uber Elevate.
Uber partnered with UT last spring to help with developing their vertical take-off and landing aircraft. This aerial vehicle is not meant to operate like a plane, but instead think of your typical commute at 2,000 feet in the air at 200 mph. Because of the speed, a one-hour trip could talk less than 10 minutes.
"Really, any city, any large city is applicable to this idea. It really helps Uber expand from being something that's really great for shorter trips to be able to handle much longer trip across the city," said McDonald.
UT’s rotary is unique because there are two sets of blades stacked, making it more efficient and quieter.
"When you hear helicopters moving overhead, they are fairly loud. Moving forward, we are looking for ways to drastically reduce the noise and a lot of that has to do with the ways the blades interact with each other," said Christopher Cameron with the Cockrell School of Engineering.
The aerial vehicles will start off with a pilot, but eventually move on to being autonomous. Though Uber is working with UT, their pilot cities will be Dallas and Los Angeles because of their traffic issues.
"Austin is a somewhat a smaller city and you don't have as bad as traffic as places like L.A," said McDonald. "We want to grow as fast as we possibly can."
Uber plans to have their first commercial flight in 2023, expanding to other cities in the following years. Uber heard of UT's rotor through the U.S. Army Research Labs. The Army is partnering with both UT and Uber. They will use the rotary technology and aerial vehicle in combat.