In a further step towards making electric air taxis a reality, Boeing- and Kitty Hawk-backed eVTOL startup Wisk Aero has formed a partnership with Blade Urban Air Mobility to send a fleet of 30 eVTOLs up into the air.
There may be some regulatory hurdles to clear before we begin to see passenger-laden eVTOLs in the sky, but the question most companies are now looking at is more framed by when the regulations will come into play as opposed to if the regulations will come into play. This is a big difference, as the former means it’s only a matter of time before eVTOLs are in commercial operation.
Right now, there are a number of companies investing heavily in the development of eVTOLs, such as CityHawk and EHang. Building a high quality, operational eVTOL is only part of the process though — once the eVTOLs are are allowed to engage in commercial passenger journeys, there is a whole other side of a business that needs to be addressed, namely the logistics side of operating passenger routes.
There are some companies that are aiming to operate vertically and both build eVTOLs and operate the customer side of the business. For example, EHang is managing both sides of the operation. Other companies are looking at different solutions, which makes sense — we don’t expect traditional airplane manufacturers to run an airport and organize flight paths in addition to building the aircraft. This partnership between Wisk Aero and Blade Urban Mobility falls into the latter solution.
Under the terms of this partnership, Wisk will supply Blade with up to 30 eVTOLs. The vehicles will be owned and maintained by Wisk and run on Blade’s existing network of air terminals for short-distance routes. Wisk’s vehicles are touted to be able to carry two passengers for a distance of up to 25 miles when the vehicles are fully charged. Wisk will receive compensation from Blade based on flight times, with Blade expecting to be able to guarantee a minimum number of flight hours given its strong existing network.
Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk, sees the partnership as indication of what is to come. “This arrangement validates that UAM is the future of mobility,” he said. “To date, we have been focused on developing an aircraft and customer experience that is efficient, accessible, and — most importantly — safe. The combination of our expertise as an autonomous eVTOL aircraft manufacturer and operator, with the operational expertise of Blade, will help usher in an even greater level of safety and service.”
This enthusiasm for the collaboration was shared by Rob Wiesenthal, CEO of Blade. “We look forward to working with Wisk to help accelerate Blade’s transition from conventional rotorcraft to safe, quiet, emission-free Electric Vertical Aircraft,” he added.
It appears that as soon as the regulatory hurdles are cleared, the two companies will be raring to go with the project. “The Wisk-Blade arrangement is a perfect fit for our asset light model,” said Will Heyburn, CFO and Head of Corporate Development for Blade. “Backed by Boeing’s deep aerospace experience, Wisk will own, operate and maintain their aircraft as part of our network, allowing Blade to focus on delivering a great experience to our fliers.”
Image credit: Wisk Aero
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