Boeing is investing USD 450 million to help develop fully electric air taxis capable of unmanned flight and vertical take-off and landing. According to a statement from California-based Wisk Aero, the company is developing so-called sixth-generation eVTOL (electrically powered vertical take-off and landing) passenger aircraft, which would be able to fly unmanned and therefore autonomously.
The strategic partnership with the US aerospace manufacturer, the previous and current investment of $450 million, will strengthen Wisk’s leading position in the so-called Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) market and, in addition to technology development, will help the company to achieve the strong growth it is planning for the coming year. Wisk plans to have one of the largest eVTOL fleets in the world within five years of certification of its sixth generation aircraft, with around 14 million zero-emission flights per year. The biggest advantage of the solution over its competitors will be the company’s own autonomous technology.
As is well known, many start-ups around the world are developing electrically powered aircraft capable of vertical take-off and landing, but most of them would only make the transition to unmanned operation in the longer term. Due to the immaturity of autonomous technologies, the shortcomings of the traffic management and regulatory environment, and the potential lack of confidence of the travelling public, most operators would initially fly their vehicles with pilots from the middle of the decade, while autonomous versions would only be introduced a few years later.
The company, called Zee Aero, was founded in 2010 by Google co-founder Larry Page, later merged into Kitty Hawk Corporation and later backed by Boeing. Wisk has made more than 1,500 test flights in the last decade.