US Army, Uber to partner on vertical lift research; stacked co-rotating rotors; Launchpoint for motors
Ride-sharing company Uber and US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Army Research Laboratory, have entered a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to advance technologies supporting Future Vertical Lift. As part of this agreement, Uber and RDECOM ARL also signed their first joint work statement jointly to fund and to collaborate on research development of rotor technology, which may lead to ground-breaking discoveries to support Army Modernization Priorities. Uber engineers met the Army researchers at a conference in 2017 and soon after discussions began about a potential collaboration.
The joint work statement focuses on research to create the first usable stacked co-rotating rotors or propellers; this is a concept for having two rotor systems placed on top of each other and rotating in the same direction.
Initial experimentation of this concept has revealed the potential for stacked co-rotating rotors be significantly quieter than traditional paired rotor approaches and improve performance for a flying craft. To date, stacked co-rotating rotors have not been deployed in existing flying craft.
Under this first joint work statement, 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. The CRADA allows for additional joint work statements in other aligned research areas. Uber and Army will continue to explore future developments in this sphere.
This agreement with Uber displays the Army utilizing innovative approaches to collaborate with an industry partner that is truly on the cutting edge. This collaboration is an opportunity to access years of knowledge vested in subject matter experts within the lab. It will allow the Army to rapidly advance mutually beneficial technology to inform objectives for silent and efficient VTOL, or vertical takeoff and landing operation, for the next generation fleet of Army unmanned air vehicles. This supports the Army modernization priorities for future vertical lift aircraft.—Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the ARL’s Vehicle Technology Directorate
Our first jointly-funded project will help us develop first of its kind rotor technology that will allow for quieter and more efficient travel. We see this initial project as the first of many and look forward to continued collaboration with the lab on innovations that will make uberAIR a reality.—Eric Allison, Head of Uber Elevate
Uber will also collaborate with Launchpoint Technologies Inc., a technology company focused on the modeling, design optimization, and fabrication of novel electric motors. LaunchPoint’s design approach will lead to motors best suited to power eVTOL technology with stacked co-rotating propellers. In the future, all three entities will exploit the experimental data and lessons learned from stacked co-rotating rotor testing. The result will be more predictive models and higher-performing next generation co-rotating propellers.
Last year, Uber announced the first US Elevate cities would be Dallas-Fort Worth/Frisco Texas and Los Angeles, with a goal of flight demonstrations in 2020 and Elevate commercially available to riders in 2023 in those cities.
To make uberAIR a reality, Uber has entered into partnerships with several highly experienced aircraft manufacturers who are developing electric VTOL vehicles including: Aurora Flight Sciences (now a subsidiary of Boeing), Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer and Bell. Uber’s design model specifies that this fully electric vehicle have a cruising speed between 150-200 mph, a cruising altitude of 1,000-2,000 feet and be able to do trips of up to 60 miles on a single charge.
Last fall, Uber signed a space act agreement with NASA for the development of new unmanned traffic management concepts and unmanned aerial systems that will enable safe and efficient operations at low altitudes. To help create skyports for the uberAIR network, Uber has also entered into real estate partnerships with Hillwood Properties and Sandstone Properties.
LaunchPoint is focused on developing enabling technologies for safe and efficient electric and hybrid electric aircraft. Its core technology ranges from high performance electric motors and motor controllers to hybrid electric propulsion systems (power generation to propulsion motors). A key component of its electric and hybrid electric propulsion systems is its patent pending ironless Dual Halbach Axial Flux motor-alternator, which enables more efficient systems than other designs based on conventional iron core motor technologies.