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Boeing (BA) bets on air taxis with $450m Wisk funding

By Joyanta Acharjee


Updated

Wisk’s Cora prototype air taxi prepares for take-off
Wisk Aero was established in 2019 as a joint venture between Boeing and Kittyhawk – Photo: Wisk Aero

An aerospace giant reckons the future of flight might be urban and electric – a global market that could be worth over a trillion dollars in under 20 years’ time, according to a major Wall Street bank.

Boeing (BA) on Monday invested a further $450m (£334m, €398m) in Wisk Aero to support its development of future pilotless flying taxis.

Wisk Aero was established in 2019 as a joint venture between Boeing and Kittyhawk, an autonomous electric air vehicle company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page and founded by Sebastian Thrun, who developed Google Glass and Google’s early self-driving car programme.

Boeing partnership

Boeing, which is due to report fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday, initially signed a strategic partnership with Wisk back in 2019.

“Wisk is extremely well-positioned to deliver on our long-term strategy and commitment to safe, everyday flight for everyone,” Wisk president and CEO Gary Gysin said in a statement.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Boeing as not only an investor but a strategic partner, which provides us with access to a breadth of resources, industry-leading expertise, a global reach, extensive certification experience and more,” he added. 

Wisk’s remotely piloted electric air-taxi prototype is named Cora, which takes off like a helicopter and transitions to flying like a plane – a method known as electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL). 

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US certification

Boeing’s investment will further advance the development of Wisk’s aircraft, which is also the first candidate for certification of an autonomous, all-electric, passenger-carrying aircraft in the US, Wisk said.

According to Morgan Stanley, the global market for urban autonomous aircraft could be worth $1.5trn (£1.1trn, €1.3trn) by 2040, with whole fleets of advanced air mobility craft carrying fare-paying passengers over congested cities in scenes reminiscent of 80s sci-fi movie Blade Runner.

Although Wisk and its parent company Kittyhawk are private, a few other contenders in the eVTOL space are already stock exchange-listed.

Joby Aviation 

Toyota-backed Joby Aviation (JOBY) is developing a piloted eVTOL air vehicle intended to operate as part of an air-taxi service beginning in 2024.

Founded in 2009 by JoeBen Bevirt, who also founded consumer photo and electronics accessory maker Joby, Joby Aviation is based in Santa Cruz, California.

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The company listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on 11 August 2021 after merging with blank-cheque company Reinvent Technology Partners, run by LinkedIn co-founder and executive chairman Reid Hoffman and Zynga founder Mark Pincus.

In late 2020, Joby acquired Uber Elevate, Uber’s on-demand taxi firm’s aerial business.

Archer Aviation

Archer Aviation's Maker, an eVTOL two-seater aircraft Archer Aviation is developing Maker, an eVTOL two-seater aircraft – Credit: Archer Aviation

Archer Aviation (ACHR) is developing Maker, an eVTOL two-seater aircraft capable of travelling at speeds of up to 150mph. 

Incorporated in 2018, Archer Aviation is headquartered in Palo Alto, California and was publicly listed on the NYSE in September 2021 after an $857.6m merger with Atlas Crest, a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

Vertical Aerospace

UK-based Vertical Aerospace (EVTL) listed in New York late last year after a SPAC merger with Broadstone Acquisition.

Vertical Aerospace is making the VX4, a four-passenger piloted vehicle projected to have speeds of up to 200 mph, a range over 100 miles and be near-silent when in flight at a cost similar to a taxi ride.

The company has partnered with aerospace and engineering organisations such as Rolls-Royce, Honeywell and GKN, as well as American Airlines and Japan Airlines.

Lilium

Lilium's Jet electric aircraft on runway, getting ready for take-off Lilium's Jet electric aircraft – Credit: Lilium

Founded in 2015, Munich-based Lilium (LILM) plans to build regional air mobility “vertiports” in Germany, Brazil and Florida by 2025 for its six-person electric Lilium jet.

To this end, last January it announced a partnership with infrastructure operator Ferrovial to develop at least 10 zero-carbon vertiports in cities across Florida. 

The company listed on the Nasdaq in September last year after completing a SPAC merger with Qell Acquisition Corporation (QELL), which raised $584m.

Read more: Hedging losses and recovery in the aviation industry

Markets in this article

GOOGL
Alphabet Inc - A (Extended Hours)
137.37 USD
-1.34 -0.970%
AAL
American Airlines Group Inc (Extended Hours)
15.69 USD
-0.02 -0.130%
BA
Boeing Co (Extended Hours)
200.48 USD
-3.52 -1.730%
HON
Honeywell
198.73 USD
0.09 +0.050%
9201
Japan Airlines Co., Ltd.
2789.4 USD
-13.5 -0.480%

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