Competition is intensifying in the market for electrically powered air taxis. Although the first tests have barely started, major companies are stepping up their involvement and are placing orders for hundreds of units.
One of the main areas of competition is likely to be Brazil, which has a strong domestic aviation market. Following Azul’s announcement last month, another airline in the country, Gol, has also announced that it is setting up a fleet of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in the country with its partners. The order for 250 VA-X4s has already been placed with leasing company Avolon by the low-cost airline, in partnership with Brazil’s largest transport company, Grupo Comporte. In Brazil, there will now be at least two large eVTOL operators, as Azul, together with Lilium, will bring up to 220 Lilium Jets to the country and build a new type of transport network.
Vertical Aerospace’s VA-X4 aircraft are scheduled to enter service as early as 2024. The aircraft will have a range of 160 kilometres and a cruising speed of 320 kilometres per hour, with four passengers and a pilot on board. The biggest helicopter lessor joins in. The Bristow Group, one of the world’s largest US-based helicopter operating and leasing groups, has announced a partnership with Eve Urban Air Mobility, a company backed by Embraer. The aim is to develop an urban air mobility (UAM) operating model for Eve’s eVTOL aircraft, based on shared experience, the two companies said.
In addition, Bristow has signed a letter of intent to purchase 100 machines from Eve, with deliveries starting in 2026. In developing the operational concept, a key factor is to maximise utilisation, low-cost operability and Eve’s aim to launch complex packages optimised for different regions and task types.
This will require overcoming problems that still appear to be major, such as the design and construction of suitable landing sites – vertiports – integration into air traffic control systems and the creation of a favourable regulatory environment. This includes the need for authorities around the world to declare eVTOL aircraft, which are radically different from conventional aircraft, suitable for passenger transport, and the creation of a legal environment that allows autonomous flight.