Uber Air, the transportation company’s upcoming flying taxi service, needs vehicle partners in order to make it a reality. Karem Aircraft, which Uber partnered with last year, has just raised a $25 million Series A round for its new air taxi spin-off. The round was led by Korean industrial conglomerate Hanwha Systems.
“Karem’s technology for making safe, quiet, and efficient air taxi vehicles excites all of us,” Uber Elevate head Eric Allison said in a statement. “Hanwha’s Series A investment in Karem’s new air taxi entity accelerates efforts to bring the Butterfly to market, and we look forward to flying riders in places like Dallas, Los Angeles, and Melbourne in the near future.”
Uber is aiming to start testing these aircraft next year, and wants to commercially deploy Uber Air in Los Angeles, Calif., Dallas-Fort Worth/Frisco, Texas and Melbourne, Australia in 2023.
Karem’s new venture is designed to focus solely on electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles, specifically its Butterfly air taxi vehicle.
The Butterfly (rendered above) is a quad tiltrotor with four large rotors mounted on the wings and tail. The idea is to combine the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft. The Butterfly is also designed to be more efficient as a result of its rotors with variable RPM.
“The new company will be able to focus exclusively on bringing Butterfly to market, leveraging Karem’s optimum speed rotor technology, Hanwha’s industrial scale, and Uber’s ridesharing network,” Ben Tigner, CEO of the new venture, said in a statement. “We look forward to the day when riders will be able to commute to work by flying above the traffic in one of our vehicles. Karem Aircraft will continue to serve the needs of its military customers; we are confident that each company is on a path for long-term success so that our technology can be applied in two distinct but important use cases.”