Uber takes to the Air
If you are going to this week’s Sundance film festival – but let’s face it, most of us will not be – then you could be in for a treat as Uber is set to try out its globally successful ride-sharing transportation, but this time in the back of an Airbus H125 or H130 helicopter. The new service will be tested at the film fest in Park City, Utah, according to Airbus Chief Executive Officer, Tom Enders, who told it to a technology conference in Munich on Sunday.
Apparently anyone with an Uber account who is in the area will be able to hail a chopper, similar to the process of requesting an Uber car ride, for the cost of US$200 per person during the day or US$300 per person at night. Sundance guests can opt for a scenic, 15-minute helicopter journey, instead of congested roads in a land vehicle, and the cost includes an SUV ride to and from the helipad.
Uber has offered helicopter services in the past: in 2013, you could book a lift between New York City and East Hampton for Fourth of July; last April, you could ride the skies between San Diego and the Coachella festival.
Enders is pushing for innovation at the Toulouse-based company, which makes all forms of transportation vehicles, from civilian airplanes to military transporters; hence, this collaboration with Uber. Uber’s ride-hailing app has been used for other forms of transportation, besides cars – there’s been rickshaws in India and boats in Istanbul. Meanwhile, Airbus has been struggling with helicopter sales, and the introduction of helicopter-sharing might help boost ailing sales numbers.
The location of Sundance was picked as the local partner of Airbus in the area operates the Airbus H125 Light Single (see top picture). This is one of the first projects launched by Airbus Group’s A3 innovation centre in the Silicon Valley. The stated goal is to explore a new business model for helicopter operators to access a broader customer base.
“This is not a partnership, rather a market pilot,” an Airbus Group spokesman said in a recent interview, emphasising that the experiment could help helicopters become a common means of transportation. He declined to say whether Uber is paying Airbus or whether Airbus is providing strengthened technical support to Air Resources.
Maybe air-taxi’s are the way of the future, but Uber does not have the market to themselves though. There is a competitor that goes by the name of Lyft, a company that is associated with General Motors, that invested a billion dollars into the new venture at the start of the month.