High-flying startups are offering Uber for… flying helicopters over Ubers

A number of helicopter startups are taking off to capitalize on the demand for expedited commute options.


December 4, 2019

Ever fantasize about commuting to work on a lavish helicopter, a la Succession’s Logan Roy? 

Several companies are attempting to make beating traffic (by flying over it) a reality, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle

Most of the flight-share innovation has centered on San Francisco’s Bay Area — where egregious congestion (which grew by 60% from 2010-16) makes even short-distance commutes hours-long headaches — but expansions to several other metropolitan areas are in the works. 

So, who are the main players?  

The biggest provider is BlackBird, an app that connects pilots and planes directly to commuters on an on-demand basis for trips in California at prices as low as $69, without the hassle of security lines. The company has already raised $16m. 

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Another startup called Voom, which is owned by aviation giant Airbus, specializes in easing short-distance commutes, with service from SFO to Napa (25 minutes), San Jose (20 minutes), and Oakland (15 minutes). At $200-$270 per trip, pricing remains high for anyone without stock options, but Voom’s speed and range are impressive. 

And in 2023, Uber Elevate will launch a short-haul service (the marketing video makes it look cooler than the Jetsons) in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Melbourne.

But there are still significant challenges to scaling up

  • First, there’s the noise. Activist groups, like Residents Opposed to Airport Racket (ROAR), will lobby against increased noise pollution, a proven menace to public health. 
  • Then, there are concerns about safety. Ride-sharing companies haven’t done a stellar job hiring drivers. Will users (or the FAA) trust non-experts to hire pilots?  
  • Finally, they’ve also got to think about emissions. Environmentally conscious consumers will opt out for carpooling, electric vehicles, or public transit. But electric planes, like the ones Uber Elevate is developing, could cancel out these concerns.

Until 2023, enjoy rush hour.

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