Uber’s Second Annual Elevate Summit was held in Los Angeles, California, on May 8–9, the week before Forum 74, with about 1,000 attendees. Uber said that some 10,000 people live-streamed the event. (All of the press releases and links to the videos of most of the presentations and panels are available at www.evtol.news/uber.)
Of note was the addition of Karem Aircraft to the group of five aircraft development partners: Karem replaced Mooney International, which had dropped out shortly after the first Elevate Summit. Karem’s eVTOL concept, Butterfly, is a quad tiltrotor with four rotors mounted on the wings and tail powered by a fully electric propulsion system. (Karem’s approach was also explained in one of the Forum 74 eVTOL panels, which are available on the VFS website.)
The other four companies presented more information about their eVTOL air taxi concepts as well, which Uber expects to carry a pilot plus four passengers inefficient flight. Aurora Flight Sciences showed several different design excursions from its original two-seat design shown last year. Bell brought its full-scale eVTOL air taxi cabin and again demonstrated its view of the ride experience, without revealing the propulsion system approach. EmbraerX unveiled its first VTOL model, which was shown as a “lift + cruise” configuration with eight overhead propellers and a single ringed thrusting propeller in the rear. Pipistrel’s new eVTOL subsidiary, Pipistrel Vertical Solutions, revealed an image of its approach, which the company said used “a new integrated vertical lift system”; there were no obvious thrusters, leaving some to suggest the concept may be using ejector augmentors.
Uber also showcased a new eVTOL common reference model (eCRM-003), designed for speeds of 150–200 mph (240–320 km/h). The lift + cruise approach features four sets of electric stacked, co-rotating propellers for vertical flight, and a single tractor propeller for cruise.
Uber subsequently released the OpenVSP models of all three eCRMs, as well as a four-page “eVTOL Vehicle Requirements and Missions” document. Uber stated that the models are “to help others understand the eVTOL design space and foster enabling technology development. With these models, UAM community developers in academia, industry, and government will have a common reference to base their studies and future work.”
Uber also announced agreements with two US government agencies, including a second Space Act agreement with NASA. Uber expects that NASA’s research into UAM concepts and technologies will generate the data necessary to support the creation of industry standards, FAA rules and procedures, and other regulations.
To help create new quieter, higher-performing rotor systems that will be used in the Common Reference Model, Uber and the US Army Research Lab signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) and a joint work statement. The agreement includes joint funding and research development to create the first stacked co-rotating propeller (two propellers on top of each other that rotate in the same direction), which is expected to be significantly quieter in flight.
Uber also announced a partnership with E-One Moli to collaborate on battery packs for eVTOL aircraft. Moli plans to work closely with Uber’s battery team, led by Celina Mikolajczak (senior manager for battery technology at Tesla), to develop battery cells that can be used in future prototypes with vehicle partners. ChargePoint, the world’s leading and open electric vehicle charging network, revealed its concept for 2 MW high-powered charging connections for eVTOL aircraft, eCTOL aircraft, and electric trucks.
Finally, Uber revealed a number of design studies for its Skyports. Uber partnered with six leading architecture and engineering firms to create conceptual designs for high-volume operations of Uber air taxi networks in and around cities, with the goal of supporting the transportation of more than 4,000 passengers per hour within a three-acre (1.2 hectare) footprint, meeting noise and environmental requirements, and ensuring that the fully electric VTOLs can recharge between trips with minimal impact to nearby communities. ArtCenter College of Design students in Pasadena, California, also conducted multi-disciplinary designs for Skyports targeted for specific eVTOL aircraft concepts.
The conference ended with a discussion with CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who expressed his very strong support for the project. Uber has increased the size of its Elevate team, including adding directors from Tesla and NASA, and opened a design office in San Luis Obispo, California. The company named Dr. Eric Allison, previously the CEO of Zee Aero (which was dissolved into Kitty Hawk), to lead Elevate. Previously, the program had fallen under the duties of longtime Uber Chief Product Officer, Jeff Holden, who departed Uber shortly after the Summit.