Aviation

REVEALED: Uber Air’s Melbourne plans

Uber’s plans for its Melbourne commercial helicopter fleet have been revealed.

With test flights set to take-off sometime this year for ride-share giant Uber’s EVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) helicopter network, details of its Melbourne service have been up to now scant.

But documents obtained under freedom of information laws, and reported on by ABC News, have shown Uber Air plans to operate a loud, fast and busy service above the Victorian city.

“Flights will travel at an altitude of [approximately] 1,500 feet [457 metres] with speeds of up to 150 to 200 miles per hour [241 to 321 kilometres per hour] and a range of up to 60 miles [96 kilometres],” a key document reported on by ABC News revealed.

Uber states its target of an appropriate level of vehicle noise will be 67 decibels for a ground observer when a helicopter is at an altitude of 75 metres – the same level as a vacuum cleaner or busy road.

The documents revealed that the ride-share company plans to use the model it has for car-sharing, positioning itself as an aggregator, with pilots potentially responsible for airworthiness certification, safety and maintenance.

Community researcher concerned over Uber Air impacts

They also reveal a working group of state and federal regulators – including the Victorian state government – working with the company “to facilitate the process”, and detail the scale and ambition of the service.

But community researcher Petra Stock, who obtained the documents, told ABC News she remains concerned about the potential impacts of Uber Air, as little details of the service had been revealed to the public, until now.

“We don’t know any specifics and we don’t know the basics around how many helicopters, heliports and where these things are going to fly,” she told the national broadcaster.

“And then we don’t know anything about the impact on privacy, for example, how they’ll use our mobile and data networks … there’s a long, long list of questions that we won’t get answers to.”

The documents also reportedly reveal buildings and parking lots could be repurposed as sky ports, and that helicopters would not need to follow fixed routes.

Last year, Melbourne was revealed as the third global pilot city for the Uber Air program, with test flights predicted to start in 2020 and plans for commercial operations to commence from 2023. It was previously reported that Sydney was also in the running to become an Uber Air pilot city.

The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) confirmed the need for secrecy by Uber, as reported by ABC News.

“Uber’s expectation [is] … information would be kept commercially sensitive.”

Flights are expected to begin this year using existing helicopters between Melbourne and Tullamarine Airport.

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