As part of its second annual Elevate Summit, Uber and Karem Aircraft have formally announced a partnership to develop eVTOL technology. Abe Karem, Karem Aircraft’s Founder, is a pioneer in VTOL technology, with decades of experience designing flying concepts including the Predator drone and A160 Hummingbird. His newest invention — Butterfly — represents a rider-friendly adaptation of optimum speed rotor technology pioneered by Karem’s team, the newest vehicle partner on the Uber Elevate Network.
As part of its broader Elevate aviation initiative, Uber plans to operate a network of small, electric aircraft in numerous cities worldwide to enable four-person ridesharing flights in densely populated urban markets. These electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) differ from helicopters in that they are orders of magnitude quieter, safer, more affordable, and more environmentally friendly.
Uber and Karem Aircraft will collaborate on Butterfly, a quad tiltrotor with four large rotors mounted on the wings and tail. The Butterfly configuration solves the tradeoff between hover and cruise efficiency, creating an optimal vehicle configuration for Uber Elevate’s use case.
Butterfly’s large, slow turning rotors not only provide efficient lift, but also quiet acoustics. Quiet acoustics is key to community acceptance, enabling the high-volume operations required to support Uber’s business.
“We’re excited to be partnering with Uber to bring our optimum speed rotor technology to the eVTOL market, and help make uberAIR a reality,” said Ben Tigner, Karem Aircraft’s CEO. “Our unique experience developing large-diameter, variable-speed rotors and highly-integrated aircraft systems, gained through 20 years of hard work based on private investment and military funding, enables us to deliver commercial air mobility solutions with higher inherent levels of safety and lower noise than other designs.
“Our large rotors let us draw less power from the batteries than vehicles with smaller rotors, enabling immediate economic viability without waiting for future batteries. We’re excited to expand our work with partners and resources available to us through the Elevate partnership, letting us cross-pollinate our ideas with additional team talent, strengthening all applications of our vehicle technology.”
“As we work to bring eVTOL technology to the Uber network, we continue to seek out highly skilled, innovative partners in the aviation space,” said Mark Moore, Uber’s director of engineering, elevate vehicle systems. “The Karem Aircraft team comes with decades of experience and has the potential to achieve an eVTOL product with compelling capabilities, especially related to low noise, high efficiency, and robust safety. We are thrilled to have Karem on board and look forward to the progress we’ll make together to bring their concept onto the Elevate network.”