Mobility

Electric air-taxis want to carry paying passengers within two or three years

But a key obstacle remains: regulation.
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Joby Aviation

· less than 3 min read

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How does one hail an air taxi? A flare gun? Arranging a bunch of sticks on the ground to spell out “Here!!,” as if a castaway stranded on a far-flung beach? Or just, you know…an app?

For now this is just a theoretical question, but that could change in the years to come. The electric air-taxi space is showing signs of technical progress, and saw a staggering surge in public and private market funding last year. Several air-taxi makers are targeting 2024 or 2025 for commercial operations, and the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency has said that timeline is a possibility.

Here’s a flyover of some recent developments.

Joby Aviation, a leading electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft company, is looking to conduct test flights of its air taxis over the San Francisco Bay, per its FCC application first reported by TechCrunch.

  • Joby claims to have completed the longest (155 miles), fastest (205 mph), and highest-altitude (7,000 feet) flights in an eVTOL, per TechCrunch.
  • Joby, which SPAC’d last August at a $4.5 billion valuation, says it wants to transport paying passengers by 2024. Three other eVTOL companies–Vertical Aerospace, Archer, and Lilium—went public via SPAC in the last four months of 2021.

Wisk, a joint-venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk, a Larry Page–backed air-taxi startup, landed $450 million in fresh funding from Boeing last week. The startup specifically works on autonomous air taxis, and hasn’t yet disclosed a go-to-market timeline.

Big picture…Air mobility tech companies raised $7+ billion in public and private market investment last year, more than doubling the amount of funding attracted over the previous decade, per the Financial Times. And major airlines have placed orders for more than 1,500 eVTOLs over the last two years, Bloomberg reports, though they’re all contingent on the aircraft receiving regulatory approval.

As a result, eVTOL manufacturers are currently focused on getting the regulatory green lights that would enable them to realize sales and begin operating.

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Drones, automation, AI, and more. The technologies that will shape the future of business, all in one newsletter.