No, the headline isn’t just click bait. According to a story by Mike Murphy for Quartz, Uber is “seriously exploring whether it can develop an aircraft that could take off and land without a runway, and fly passengers autonomously to where they want to go.”
According to the company’s head of product Jeff Holden, Uber is researching vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircrafts, which generally refers to planes with fixed wings. Holden said Uber hopes to bring these planes to consumers within 10 years, but United States regulations currently don’t permit autonomous flights for delivery drones, let alone drones that transport people, says Murphy.
Murphy writes that other companies, such as Chinese drone manufacturer EHang, are looking into similar concepts. At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, EHang unveiled a large autonomous drone that can transport a person on its own for 50 miles.
Although the timeline seems unlikely, Murphy notes that Uber was able to bring a small pilot program of self-driving cars to the streets of Pittsburgh recently. Sure, it might seem like apples and oranges, but Uber has a history or “circumventing regulation”, so don’t be surprised if the company is able to make this aircraft project a reality.
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