Opinion

The Next Generation Of Urban Aviation – Getting Policymakers on Board

It’s 2025, and you’re headed out of town to escape the humidity and heat of another D.C. summer. But first, you have to suffer through the traffic, wait times and delays.

At Uber, we have a different idea: What if, with the push of a button, you could board an electric vehicle that takes off vertically and whisks you away to somewhere beyond the swamp? There’s no need to worry about fighting holiday gridlock, finding airport parking or printing your boarding pass. Just the opposite — you control your entire trip right from your phone.

This is not some far-off science experiment or a scene from “The Jetsons” – it’s the program we call Uber Air, and it will be a reality in some cities just five years from now. Last week, at the Uber Elevate conference, we brought together industry professionals, regulators, policymakers, and transportation stakeholders, all working to make this a reality. Ironing out the complexities of safe, reliable urban transit is not a novel issue, but incredible technologies are creating new options every day, and will be a key part of the conversation about the next 50 years of transportation, alongside drones, self-driving cars, and urban aviation.

Today, we’re moving forward with cutting-edge pilot programs in Dallas, Los Angeles and newly announced, Melbourne (the first international location). As we move forward, it’s more important than ever to develop frameworks and rules that account for, and even encourage, the innovation already underway to fundamentally change how we get where we’re going. A thoughtful approach to urban aviation will be critical for startups and established companies alike as we establish best practices and industry-wide protocols.

The good news is that policymakers understand that the ways we travel have always evolved quickly, from carriages to Cadillacs to communal rideshare. And state and local leaders are eager for new opportunities to alleviate snarled traffic for commuters and residents. In Dallas-Fort Worth, leadership on expanding mobility options means that ambitious new technology like Uber Air will be a reality by 2023, moving people and goods more efficiently than ever before.

Out west, we’ve worked closely with the aeronautics division of the California Department of Transportation on the permitting and design of new skyports, which will allow riders to meet at a central location and join an Uber Air ride with other people headed in the same direction. Just last week at the Elevate Summit, we unveiled 16 new multimodal skyport designs that include parking areas for electric scooters and bikes, or retail space and popular amenities. All of the designs showcase the future of urban mobility.

Helping people navigate their commutes and travel is only one part of expanded mobility – there are also incredible opportunities for getting goods and services to more people, more quickly. In San Diego, we’re testing and launching a drone food delivery service. In the early pilot, users can have McDonald’s delivered via drone. Here again, a regulatory framework that encourages innovation is essential. We launched this service through the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (UAS IPP), which brings together governments and the private sector to effectively and quickly deploy drones. The support of the UAS IPP is allowing us to create the future of food delivery.

Working with government regulators like the UAS IPP is the only realistic path forward for companies like Uber to bring to market new technologies that expand mobility options. Building on productive conversations with the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation, we’re looking forward to continuing the conversation with policymakers as they develop a pro-innovation rulebook for the next generation of transportation and aviation.

It seems obvious to say, but as new technologies are developed and tested, industry, government, and communities need to work together to develop a framework that establishes clear standards while embracing innovation. This year’s Elevate Summit unveiled technology that wasn’t even conceivable five years ago – just imagine what will be on display five years from now. Headed out of town during recess? Hungry for a quick dinner? Ready to visit the in-laws? We’ll take you there with a push of a button, on the ground or in the air.

 

Danielle Burr is the head of federal affairs at Uber Technologies Inc.

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