Uber Expands Partnership with NASA on Flying Taxi Project

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Uber signed a second Space Act Agreement with NASA to develop models that will simulate urban air mobility service. It’s a sign that Uber is interested in working closely with government regulators as it seeks to get its ambitious flying taxi project off the ground.

Under the agreement, Uber will provide NASA with details and data on its plans for a flying taxi service, which the agency will use to simulate flights over Dallas-Fort Worth. This data will address scenarios involving air traffic, collision mitigation, and air space management. It is NASA’s first such agreement related to urban air mobility (UAM) specifically focused on modeling and simulation.

The announcement was made during Uber’s second annual Elevate conference, which is being held in Los Angeles. LA and Dallas are the two cities that have agreed to host early tests of Uber’s air taxi service.

Uber’s first Space Act Agreement with NASA, which was signed last November, was a general statement of an intent to collaborate. Today’s agreement is much more specific. NASA will use Uber’s data to simulate a small passenger-carrying aircraft as it flies through Dallas-Fort Worth airspace during peak scheduled air traffic. The airspace above the city is incredibly crowded, so the simulations will be key in helping Uber figure how its proposed service slots fit in with the hundreds of aircraft flying above Dallas every day.

“NASA is excited to be partnering with Uber and others in the community to identify the key challenges facing the UAM market, and explore necessary research, development and testing requirements to address those challenges,” said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. “Urban air mobility could revolutionize the way people and cargo move in our cities and fundamentally change our lifestyle much like smart phones have.”

Update May 8th, 10:38am PT: Uber also signed an agreement with the US Army to develop and test “flying taxi” aircraft for the company’s mobility service. The company will jointly develop and fund research into rotor technology with the US Army’s corporate research lab.

Under the agreement, Uber and the Army’s research lab expect to spend a combined total of $1 million in funding for this research; this funding will be divided equally between each party.

( By Andrew J. Hawkins@andyjayhawk for The Verge | Photography by CBS San Francisco)

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