Uber’s uncomplicated view of Elevate in action

It seems that Uber failed to copy air safety regulator CASA into its latest headline grabbing foray when it targeted Australian media with claims that it could have an ultimately pilotless flying ride service operating in traffic congested capital cities by 2023.

There is no evidence of any formal or even detailed but informal approach being made by the ride hailing service to CASA to back up the claims made yesterday that an urban air network could crack surface transport gridlock in cities like Sydney or Melbourne in a mere five years.

This is what Uber needs from the aviation safety regulator for its ‘Elevate’ concept to work legally in this country.

It has to have pilots (whether on board, or in a control centre) who are licensed to fly an aircraft of a capacity and design that has in fact yet to be built, tested and certified as safe.

Those pilots, or eventually, automated systems, have to be able to prevent a crash at any stage of a flight due to a loss of power from such causes as an engine failure, or upset in turbulence, or sudden change in wind or weather conditions.

There has to be a demonstrated and proven emergency evacuation procedure in place in the event of a survivable hard or aborted landing on a designated landing place or unplanned set down on a beach, road, park, or playground.

This would involve features incorporated in the Elevate flying vehicle, which is yet to be designed, built, tested and certified.

There must be an approved integration of Elevate movements in any controlled air space used by other aircraft, and compatible with the over arching needs of police and emergency services flights.

The list could go on. It is in some respects a similar list to the requirements for the safe mixing of goods or freight trains with passenger train services on shared tracks, but rendered more serious and complicated by speed and altitude and the need to fly over buildings and other structures.

Just as taxis and ordinary vehicles need to meet seat and collision safety standards, aircraft require passenger fittings capable of withstanding a range of forces, and exposure to fire.

But all at a harder to achieve standard, given the characteristics of a flying passenger vehicle.

The PR out of Uber on Elevate yesterday inferred that making the flying vehicle work outside the US might be easier from an administrative and regulatory perspective than grappling with the the bureaucracy of America’s FAA.

If this is the case, it is a seriously misinformed position to take, as the FAA, and its European counterpart, actually set the aerial vehicle certification standards for the world, and without their prior approval, nothing that an aerospace supplier might produce for Uber for a stand alone jurisdiction such as Dubai, would  be marketable, or insurable, on a global scale.

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