Uber Hires NASA Engineer Thought To Be Flying Car Pioneer

Ride-hailing giant Uber just brought over a NASA engineer credited for helping bring flying cars from concepts to viable vehicles.

Mark Moore, chief technologist for on-demand ‎mobility at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia is now serving as director of engineering at Uber Elevate, Uber’s flying car division. He’ll help Uber bring its on-demand services over to airborne transport.

Moore thinks Uber is the company able to build a practical business model for bringing a flying commuter transit option to customers.

“I can’t think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) market real,” he said.

In 2010 while serving as an advanced aircraft engineer at Langley Research Center, Moore published a white paper laying out the potential flying electric cars have to take off and land like helicopters in a smaller and quieter fashion. These vehicles could solve a few growing problems building up in crowded urban settings, where people are dreading long commutes.

His research into these VTOL flying cars is said to have inspired Google co-founder Larry Page to enter the game. Bloomberg reported that after reading Moore’s white paper, Page quietly invested in two Silicon Valley startups, Zee Aero and Kitty Hawk, to further develop flying car technologies.

Uber Elevate is working toward rolling out a fleet of small flying cars powered by electric motors that go 50 to 100 miles on a single charge. After a period of testing and development, they’ll integrate Uber’s commitment to autonomous vehicle systems into the flying cars. The idea here would be for interested Uber customers to pull out their mobile device and summon a flying car ride; just as they would hail a land-based Uber ride piloted autonomously or by a human driver.

Nikhil Goel, Uber’s head of product for advanced programs, agrees with Moore that Uber is well-positioned to push development of flying cars.

“Uber continues to see its role as an accelerant-catalyst to the entire ecosystem, and we are excited to have Mark joining us to work with manufacturers and stakeholders as we continue to explore the use case described in our white paper,” Goel wrote in an e-mail to Bloomberg.

Uber’s Elevate white paper, released last year, shows design concepts for flying cars. One of them, as seen above, was the NASA GL-10 scale prototype design that Moore was likely to have worked on. Moore was credited as a contributor and reviewer of Uber Elevate’s white paper.

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Uber Elevate and other startups building flying cars know that it will take a while to see them become viable. The approval process administered by the Federal Aviation Administration will take years to get through.

Moore believes in the technology and Uber’s potential enough to have left NASA one year away from being eligible for retirement from NASA, reports Gas 2.0.

He’s become a bit burned out by the bureaucratic process needed to move projects forward at NASA.

“It’s the federal government who is best positioned to overcome extremely high levels of risks,” he said.

That’s being transferred over to private industry, he said.

That seems to be behind companies like SpaceX, headed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, gaining contracts from NASA for space flight voyages.

Gas 2.0 and Bloomberg

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