Slovenian ultralight plane maker Pipistrel has teamed up with US ride-hailing company Uber to develop electric aircraft for personal transportation in big cities. The two companies plan to unveil the first demonstration planes by 2020.
The partnership marks the beginning of an interesting path towards new means of travel that will not only save users’ time but will also be more environmentally friendly, Pipistrel director Ivo Boscarol said as he signed the partnership on Tuesday. Pipistrel will develop electrical vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) aircraft for short distances within large cities, while Uber will develop the software and hardware needed for controlling urban airspace and managing the aircraft in the planned airborne personal transportation network.
The network, called Uber Elevate Network, is to allow users to hail rides with Pipistrel’s VTOL planes in big cities. Uber engineering director of aviation Mark Moore stressed that Pipistrel was the only company with serial production of electric planes and would be an important partner that would allow Uber’s VTOL aircraft network to become a reality.
In 2016, the high-tech Ajdovščina-based airplane maker signed a 350m EUR deal on a long-term joint venture with the Chinese Sino GA Group to launch an aircraft factory in China with a capacity of over 500 electric aircraft per year. Pipistrel has already made aviation history by developing a hybrid electric drive for planes and an aircraft with a zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell engine which made its first public flight at Stuttgart Airport, Germany in November last year. Boscarol has stressed several times that his vision is mass production of electric aircraft for day-to-day transport in big cities.
The entire three-day summit can be viewed on Uber’s live stream.