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Possible next step from Uber: Aircraft on demand

Diagrams in the paper showed aircraft bodies of various designs with propellers that can rotate to allow for vertical lift-off or landing, then move into position for flying forward. Photograph: (Getty)

San Francisco, CA, United States Oct 28, 2016, 04.13 AM (IST)

Uber, perhaps once again, hopes to make science fiction science fact – by providing aircraft on demand. 

The company on Thursday released a 98-page white paper that talked about small, electric aircraft taking off and landing vertically and taking people to and from work in a fraction of the time it takes by road, AFP reported. 

"Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground," said the white paper, authored by Uber chief product officer Jeff Holden and product manager Nikhil Goel.

Diagrams in the paper showed aircraft bodies in multiple designs with propellers that could rotate to allow for vertical lift-off or landing. The VTOL aircraft will be powered by electricity, and hence will not contribute to air or noise pollution. 

"A network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically will enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities,” the white paper added. 

However, the proposal doesn't come without challenges. Affordability, training pilots, approval of regulators, and making light-weight batteries are likely to be problem areas, AFP said. 

"The greatest operational barrier to deploying a VTOL fleet in cities is a lack of sufficient locations to place landing pads," Holden said.

"Even if VTOLs were certified to fly today, cities simply don't have the necessary takeoff and landing sites for the vehicles to operate at fleet scale."

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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