Uber hires ex-Nasa engineer Mark Moore to steer its flying cars project

Looks like Uber does not want to stay limited to being just a radio cab service. It has diversified into food delivery, motorbike rentals and more since launch, but the US company's latest high profile hire hints at ambitions of developing flying cars.

Mark Moore, a former aircraft engineer at Nasa's Langley Research Centre, has been hired by Uber. Moore is renowned for his white paper on flying cars in 2010, which outlined the practicality of a flying electric aircrafts. Unlike the current day aircrafts, these would be smaller and quieter and would take off and land like helicopters. Moore has been hired by Uber Technologies, and will be leaving Nasa after a 30-year stint there.

Image: Nasa

Image: Nasa

The research paper spoke about a VTOL concept - VTOL standing for vertical take off and landing - a project that was quickly lapped up by Google co-founder Larry Page who started and financed Zee Aero and Kitty Hawk, two Silicon Valley startups, to work on the concept of VTOL.

Moore's new role at Uber Technologies will be director of engineering for aviation, thereby adding more gravitas to the Uber Elevate program, which is Uber's flying car initiative.

According to Bloomberg, Uber isn't making its own flying car yet. In its white paper published last year, Uber outlined the idea for airborne commutes, along with identifying problem areas and technical challenges such as noise pollution, vehicle efficiency and limited battery life.

According to Uber's head of product for advanced programs, Nikhil Goel, the company wants to organise the industry to help develop the flying cars market. "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 whitepaper," said Goel in an email statement to Bloomberg.

While Moore has also highlighted the technical difficulties, he says that there are other problems as well. According to him, flying car companies would need to negotiate with suppliers to get prices down, lobby regulators to certify aircrafts and so on. Uber, according to Moore with its 55mn rider-base could demonstrate a scalable and profitable model for this mode of transport, without which it will just remain a pipe dream.

Moore is leaving Nasa just one year prior to his retirement, which would entitle him to benefits such as pension and free health cover for life. According to Moore, he is disillusioned with Nasa and its structure is leaving this public aviation market open to private industry players.

Published Date: Feb 07, 2017 01:57 pm | Updated Date: Feb 07, 2017 01:57 pm