Uber wants to bring its network into the air -- and soon.
At its annual Elevate conference, which kicked off on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Uber will dive into the details of its long-term vision to deploy airborne transportation products, including helicopters, Uber Eats delivery drones, and "flying taxis" that take off and land vertically. Uber shares were trading down 1.2% to $42.12 on Tuesday.
Uber executives, technology partners, regulators and lawmakers will participate in the event, with Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao expected to make remarks on the possibilities for Uber aerial products.
"We can take our mass and scale on the ground and drive demand for these [aerial] vehicles...we can do this in every city we operate in around the world," said Eric Allison, the head of Uber's Elevate group that develops aerial transportation products, on Tuesday morning. "Our vision is that on a daily basis, it will be more economically rational for you to fly than it will be for you to drive."
At this point, investors seem more interested in the economics of Uber's core business than they are in flying taxis.
Since going public at $45 per share on May 10, Uber shares have cracked their IPO price only once amid doubts about its ability to generate a profit from its existing ridehailing business.
In the near term, Uber will launch a commercial helicopter service in Manhattan starting on July 9. The new service, which will be available to members of Uber's Platinum and Diamond tiers, will cost between $200 and $225 for an eight-minute jaunt from downtown Manhattan to JFK airport using existing helipads.
In a tragic and ill-timed coincidence, a helicopter crash in midtown Manhattan on Monday killed one and rattled residents -- leading New York City Council speaker Corey Johnson to publicly question whether a commercial helicopter service from Uber is necessary or safe.
Uber's Elevate conference runs through Thursday, June 13.