Uber has hired 30-year Nasa veteran Mark Moore to work on its flying car initiative, Uber Elevate, as director of engineering for aviation, according to Bloomberg. Last year, the ride-hailing company published a 98-page white paper on developing VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) vehicles.
"I can't think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL market real," Moore told the publication.
In its research paper released in October, Uber said on-demand aviation "has the potential to radically improve urban mobility, giving people back time lost in their daily commutes".
"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," the Uber white paper reads.
"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."
Uber expects this vision could be achievable within the next decade "if all the key actors in the VTOL ecosystem - regulators, vehicle designers, communities, cities and network operators - collaborate effectively". It also outlined some of the challenges that will need to be addressed including battery technology, vehicle efficiency, performance and reliability, cost, air traffic control and emissions.
The company noted that it has currently no intention of becoming an automaker itself, but will "contribute to the nascent but growing VTOL ecosystem and to start to play whatever role is most helpful to accelerate this industry's development".
"Rather than manufacture VTOL hardware ourselves, we instead look to collaborate with vehicle developers, regulators, city and national governments, and other community stakeholders, while bringing to the table a very fertile market of excited consumers and a clear vehicle and operations use case," the research paper reads.
Moore consulted on the paper as well.
In 2010, Moore published his own research paper on the feasibility of short-range, electric-powered helicopter-like VTOL aircraft. His research reportedly inspired Google co-founder Larry Page to fund two Silicon Valley startups, Zee Aero and Kitty Hawk, to work on flying car technology last year.
Moore told Bloomberg that he is leaving Nasa just one year before he is eligible for retirement, giving up a significant percentage of his pension and free health care for life to "be in the right place at the right time to make this market real".
"Uber continues to see its role as an accelerant-catalyst to the entire ecosystem," Nikhil Goel, Uber's head of product for advanced programmes, said. "We are excited to have Mark joining us to work with manufacturers and stakeholders as we continue to explore the use case described in our whitepaper."