At their third annual “Uber Elevate” summit in Washington DC – tech startup and transportation disruptor Uber have announced Melbourne as the first International City to join the pilot program for Uber Air.

Melbourne joins Dallas and Los Angeles who were announced last year as cities that will conduct flight tests from next year in co-operation with local airspace and air safety regulators.

Commercial Operations – A formal way for Uber to say “you’ll be able to book an Uber riding on Uber Air” – will commence in 2023.

For Uber the Uber Air concept is about opening up a new layer of mobility – aimed at alleviating congestion on the ground – with a long term vision of electric vehicles transporting many thousands of people across cities for the same price as an UberX!

It won’t be that cheap to start with of course, though EFTM understands the aim at launch would be for a trip on Uber Air to be comparable with Uber Black right now – not bad at all!

Local boss of Uber in Australia Susan Anderson made the announcement on-stage at the event here in Washington today saying “Since we entered the market in 2012, Australians have embraced Uber wholeheartedly. Today, over 3.8 million Aussies regularly use Uber as a reliable way to get from A to B, and governments across the country have recognised the important role ridesharing plays in the future of transport for our cities.”

“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology. This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the perfect third launch city for Uber Air. We will see other Australian cities following soon after.”

The State Government of Victoria, Australia has been highly supportive, and we look forward to partnering with them to progress into this first international trial for Uber Air in Melbourne,” said Susan.

Putting the whole thing in context really comes down to time.

A journey from Melbourne Airport to the CBD takes between 25 and 55 minutes now, depending on traffic.

With Uber Air – that could be 10 minutes. EFTM understands the actual flight time there is around 6 minutes, with the additional time factored in being the getting to the “Skyport” and boarding the Uber Air.

Sounds like a stretch, but even if it’s a bit off – still faster!

Also at the event speaking was Victoria’s Assistant Treasurer Robin Scott who spoke of his State’s innovative tech leadership, but perhaps of more interest are some of the other partners.

While Telstra and Macquarie are certainly big names who bring a lot to a project like this, it’s the Scenter Group that seems most interesting.

As owners and operators of Westfield properties in Australia and New Zealand, one could imagine they have a host of potential sites for new Uber “SkyPorts” up top of their vast property network.

While none of this means a Skyport is coming to any given place right now, a long period of community consultation will now kick off to determine the best places and ways to bring Uber Air to Melbourne.

The test flights that commence next year will not see Uber aircraft flying around the city – more likely those test flights will occur in and around heavily controlled airspaces like airports to help understand the logistical issues related to such a vast increase in air traffic.

Aircraft in use will not be your standard plane or chopper. Instead VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) will be important, paired with fast horizontal flight – thus the many mock ups and potential new aircraft types that are in development for the Uber Air project.

“Flying Cars” are not coming, but your Uber in 2023 might just be a pretty special ride.

Trevor Long travelled to Washington as a guest of Uber Australia