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NASA expert on board with Uber’s flying car project aiming for trials within a year

Donna Coutts, February 7, 2017 6:10PM Herald Sun

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Reading level: orange

ANYONE who has read JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets or seen the movie will have dreamt about turning up to school in a flying car. Admit it! You have, haven’t you.

Well, you’re not alone. So have the people at Uber, the worldwide online transport company. Uber, which many people now use to book car transport instead of taking a taxi or public transport, has shown its long-term plan is to take to the skies.

Uber has reportedly* hired NASA’s leading expert in flying cars and given him the job of heading up the Uber Elevate flying car project.

Bloomberg, a news company, broke the news yesterday that NASA’s Mark Moore has left NASA after 30 years of working for the US space agency to take up the role of director of engineering on the flying car project.

Back in 2010, Moore published a detailed report on whether electric flying cars would work as a practical form of transport. The report has already inspired technology company Google to launch two start-ups* in the field.

This artist rendering provided by Airbus shows a vehicle in their flying car project, Vahana. Even before George Jetson entranced kids with his flying car, people dreamed of soaring above traffic congestion. Inventors and entrepreneurs have tried and failed to make the dream a reality, but that may be changing. Nearly a dozen companies around the globe, some of them with deep pockets like Airbus, are working to develop personal aircraft that let people hop over crowded roadways. (Airbus via AP) media_cameraSeveral companies have plans to develop flying cars. This drawing is from Airbus, showing one of the company’s ideas for a flying car project. Picture: AP

The Uber vision for a fleet of flying cars is to have conventional* Uber cars, which would probably be self-driving by then, taking people from their home or business to their neighbourhood “vertiport”*, from which flying Ubers would be able to transfer them up to 160km.

The flying Ubers would then plug in and recharge ready for their next flight.

It all sounds like something out of the wizarding world or science fiction — but then again so did self-driving cars a few years ago, and everyone from Swedish car company Volvo to Google and Uber are trialling* self-driving cars on the road now.

The first type of flying Ubers would be likely to have an Uber driver (or Uber pilot, perhaps) with trials, at least according to Moore’s vision, coming in as soon as a year.

In Moore’s report, he predicted Uber would market a fully electric, vertical* take off and landing plane capable of carrying passengers for about the price of a normal Uber X ride.


reportedly: according to what some people say

start-ups: a small group setting up a new company

conventional: normal; what we are used to

vertiport: a vertical airport. Rather than long runways, the aircraft goes straight up, like a helicopter at a heliport

trialling: testing

vertical: straight up in the air, rather than along the ground







Activity 1: Flying Uber

Summarise the ‘Uber Elevate’ program from the Kids News story using the 5 Ws.






Extension: Write a job advertisement for a design engineer to join the Uber Elevate project. What sort of characteristics would they be looking for in a new employee?

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: English, Design & Technologies

Activity 2: Uber Elevate Flying Fleet

Flying Uber trials could be a reality within a year! Uber is looking at designing fully electric flying cars that take off and land up to 160km away. Design a prototype for one of these cars. In your design you need to include:

Detailed sketch annotated with the cars features (draw lines out from sketch labelling each feature)

Estimated price of a one-way trip

Flying features (for example, wings, landing gear)

How you book

Sky rules for this new mode of transport

Qualifications required to drive/fly these cars?

What else needs to be considered if this project were to go ahead in Australia?

Extension: Write a script for a marketing presentation asking potential investors to give money to fund this flying car program.

Time: allow at least one hour to complete this task

Curriculum links: English, Design & Technologies, Critical & Creative Thinking

VCOP Activity

(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation)

Activity 1: Vocabulary focus

Imagine a world of flying cars. Make a senses table, brainstorming all the things you would see, hear, feel, smell and taste in this futuristic world.

Extension: Using some of the senses words, write a short story about “The day your Uber flying car took a wrong turn.”

Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete the task

Curriculum Links: English, Big Write, VCOP

Activity provided by Andrell Education


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