Uber has hired a NASA researcher to help it build flying cars

Uber, a ride-sharing service turned tech conglomerate, recently hired a former engineer at NASA to lead its exploration of flying vehicle technology.

In an interview, Holden shared his interest in "vertical takeoff and landing" vehicles (VTOL), claiming, "It could change cities and how we work and live".

Uber's plans for a flying service were first hinted at in September 2016 by Uber's Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden.

Mark Moore, a 30-year veteran of NASA, has left the aeronautics agency for a seemingly more terrestrial business: ride-hailing giant Uber. It's unclear what Uber offered Moore to drawn him away, but Moore told Bloomberg that he wants "to be in the right place at the right time to make this market real".

In 2010, an advanced aircraft engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center named Mark Moore published a white paper outlining the feasibility of electric aircrafts that could take off and land like helicopters but were smaller and quieter. It was his research paper which inspired people like Larry Page (Google's founder), to launch their own flying auto startups like Kitty Hawk and Zee Aero in late 2016.

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VTOL aircraft are also being explored by two Larry Page-backed startups, as well as commercial aviation company Airbus through its Vahana project. In its own white paper published last October, the company laid out a radical vision for airborne commutes and identified technical challenges it said it wanted to help the nascent industry solve, like noise pollution, vehicle efficiency and limited battery life.

"It's the federal government who is best positioned to overcome extremely high levels of risks", [Moore] says.

For Uber's part, Uber's Mr. Goel told USA Today that his company, "continues to see its role as a catalyst to the growing developing VTOL ecosystem". The new initiative will be called Uber Elevate.

In his move to Uber, NASA seems to have lost one of its biggest proponents of this technology.

Uber may have earned its stripes by bringing ridesharing into the mainstream, but the Travis Kalanick led company clearly has ambitions that stretch far beyond routine carpooling.

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