Uber wants flying cars — and it hired a former Cal Poly professor to lead the way

A former Cal Poly aerospace engineering professor is helping Uber in its push to bring flying cars to the world in the near future.

Rob McDonald, who worked at Cal Poly for more than a decade, joined Uber in January to serve as the company’s head of aircraft engineering.

In May, Uber plans to host its second annual Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, an invitation-only aviation conference that brings together more than 700 of “the world’s foremost on-demand aviation leaders in industry, government and academia” to explore “the exciting future of urban aviation,” according to the company’s website.

Uber, which is best known for its on-demand ride-hailing application, is working to build a network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically. They’re known as VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing).

Uber flying car
Former Cal Poly professor Rob McDonald, now Uber’s head of aircraft engineering, is helping the company build a network of small, electric aircraft. Uber hopes to launch tests in Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai by 2020. Uber

Uber’s head of product Jeff Holden told The Verge in November 2017 the company hopes to launch tests in Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai by 2020.

“Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground,” Uber says in its Fast-Forwarding to Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation document online.

McDonald is scheduled to speak during the second day of the conference on May 9 as part of the “Vehicles, Batteries and Key Technologies” segment.

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