Independent films aren’t the only things that’ll be previewed at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah this week: Airbus Group and Uber Technologies are launching a pilot project that offers on-demand helicopter rides to the show.
But if the project gets picked up for further development, it may require some tweaks to Uber’s standard rideshare model.
Airbus Group’s CEO, Tom Enders, provided a teaser over the weekend at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich, Germany. “It’s a pilot project, we’ll see how it goes — but it’s pretty exciting,” he told The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal quoted an Airbus spokesman as saying that the flights will be provided by Airbus’ H125 and H130 helicopters, in partnership with a Utah-based helicopter operator named Air Resources. Uber would dispatch cars to pick up clients for the rides at Sundance.
Uber has been testing an on-demand helicopter service called UberChopper for about three years, primarily for vacationers or for special events where traffic gets tangled.
For example, a Texas tryout flew passengers from Dallas’ Love Field to a helipad near Arlington’s AT&T Stadium for last year’s college football championship game, at $350 a person for the package. Last November, UberChopper partnered with Alpha Tours to offer helicopter flights from Dubai to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix starting at $612 a person.
At this month’s International CES show in Las Vegas, UberChopper teamed up with Maverick Helicopters and Vinli to ferry showgoers around. One package offered night tours of The Strip for $99 a person.
There was no immediate word about the pricing for the Sundance pilot project.
Uber’s rideshare model has thoroughly disrupted taxi services on land, but it could run into complications in the air: Last month, a federal appeals court closed the door on flight-sharing services, saying the pilots would have to have the same certification that’s required for common carriers.
That ruling led to the shutdown of Flytenow, a California-based service that styled itself as the “aviation version of Uber and Lyft.” Air Resources’ role as a partner in the Airbus-Uber project points to an arrangement that heads off some of the regulatory hurdles. Uber’s role is likely to focus on the smartphone system for summoning a ride to and from the helipad, rather than enlisting local pilots for hire.
Europe’s Airbus Group has become increasingly open to ventures that may seem far afield from its core business in airplanes: Last week, Silicon Valley spin-off Airbus Ventures announced that the first investment from its $150 million fund would go to Local Motors, a Phoenix-based startup that’s working on 3D-printed cars.