Uber Hires NASA Engineer to Head It’s Flying Car Division

If Uber ever wanted to get it’s flying car service off the ground, it would probably be now. The ride share company just announced it’s new hire and longtime NASA engineer Mark Moore, who worked as an advanced aircraft engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center on topics like small, quiet electric aircrafts that take off and land like helicopters, but are smaller, thus making them ideal for navigating the daily commute. They’re otherwise known as VTOL — vertical takeoff and landing — aircrafts.

Though the point of the endevour is not to replace airlines, but instead being designed for distances of 50-100 miles, that perfect in between that makes the hassle of an airline annoying, and the length of a road trip tedious. While autonomous flight is the obvious goal, Moore says that human pilots will be necessary when the service first comes online, hopefully within the next three years.

Moore points out that there are a lot of problems to figure out before flying cars become a reality — for example, companies will have to lobby regulators to certify aircrafts and relax air-traffic restrictions — but Uber, with its five million riders, is in a sot to show how it could be a safe and profitable new market.

“If you don’t have a business case that makes economic sense, than all of this is just a wild tech game and not really a wise investment,” he explains.

To that end, Uber hasn’t built a flying car yet, but instead, says it wants to support the budding industry’s growth.

“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,” Nikhil Goel, Uber’s head of product for advanced programs, said in a statement.

Uber isn’t alone in trying to take to the skies: Airbus announced in January that it will have a flying car prototype in the air by the end of the year.