Uber is determined to make flying taxis a reality by 2023 – and the FAA is determined to make sure that they do so in a safe manner.
At Uber’s Elevate Summit 2018, FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell spoke with Uber’s Chief Product Officer, Jeff Holden, on the path to certification, Elwell’s involvement in aviation, and the path for both moving forward.
While the discussion was somewhat uncomfortable at the beginning, the mood relaxed somewhat when Holden asked Elwell how he became involved in aviation, and what his favorite aircraft was. Elwell is a pilot, and quickly took the prudent move of making the offhand remark that he can’t really comment on that due to a conflict of interest. More importantly, Holden asked Elwell a question selected from the audience: would Elwell fly in a self-piloted aircraft? Elwell’s response was a resounding “absolutely”.
Other inquiries focused on if Part 23 regulations required a complete rewrite to accommodate flying cars and taxis, to which Elwell qualified: “I don’t think that we’ll have to completely revamp Part 23”, moreover, Elwell added that more likely than a complete rewrite were some amendments and changes to the regulation.
The overarching theme of the complex regulator – operator – manufacturer relationship in the eVTOL industry is completely original. In the past, the pace of aerospace was well defined, and projects progressed with predictable speed. With the involvement of a larger portion of technology firms, agendas are pressed harder, deadlines are set more ambitiously, and in this case the technology is ready before regulators are. This is the heart of the issue, especially with the larger regulating bodies such as the FAA and EASA.
Some eVTOL companies are taking alternative approaches and working with different regulators, such as Larry-Page backed Kittyhawk Aerospace, which is working on their Cora concept in New Zealand with the CAA. Read TUP’s article on Cora here.
The final take: Regulators are being pressed like they’ve never been before to determine how they’ll modify regulation to account for an entire new type of aircraft to certify. Simultaneously, as government entities focused primarily on the general public’s safety, regulators are balancing modification of regulation with the exact same high level of safety standard.
- Image // evtol.news