Uber is teaming up with AT&T to investigate how 4G and 5G technology can help enable aerial ridesharing and cargo drones.
The multi-phase collaboration will start with assessments of LTE and 5G connectivity for autonomous cargo drones and piloted aircraft operating in low-altitude airspace. AT&T said it expects this first phase to last at least one year, with the goal of testing “the boundaries of viable new technologies for aerial connectivity” and enhancing safety and reliability.
Uber’s Elevate team is working with AT&T for its helicopter ride service, Uber Copter, which is slated to debut in July providing service from Manhattan to JFK in New York, according to Tech Crunch.
Service can be booked through Uber’s app and the costs for the eight-minute flight will be around $200-225 per person, including ground transportation, according to the New York Times.
Uber is planning a broader aerial ridesharing service launch in 2023, with commercial flight operations in Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angles and an unannounced international city.
For the Uber and AT&T collaboration, AT&T Foundry will head up the carrier’s efforts, providing expertise in radio access networks, data analysis, drones, and hardware design and optimization.
Uber will contribute Elevate’s resources in airspace management, ridesharing software, and flight operations. In addition to the Uber Copter pilot operations in New York, the pair will also use their existing drone delivery testing work in San Diego.
“We’re in the very earliest stages of seeing what 5G can do to augment next-generation air travel, but we’re excited for the possibilities,” said Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs, and chief technology officer, in a statement. “Ridesharing services were one of the defining mobile applications of the 4G era. Air taxis and other new air vehicles could well eventually become a signature use case for 5G.”
Down the line, AT&T and Uber may also investigate advanced technologies like edge computing and network slicing to enable dedicated connectivity for next-generation electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) and cargo drones.
“AT&T’s talented team of engineers and leading 5G capabilities have the potential to revolutionize wireless connectivity for eVTOLs and drones,” said Tom Prevot, Director of Engineering for Airspace Systems at Uber. “AT&T has already made important strides in pioneering connectivity capabilities above 500 feet in urban settings, and we look forward to working with them on the next generation of breakthroughs.”