eVTOL Startup Announces Autonomous Air Taxis

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

A new eVTOL start-up, backed by Boeing and Kitty Hawk, has finalized its first deal. It will operate autonomous air taxis in the United States. eVTOL stands for electric vertical takeoff and landing. In short, they are electric helicopters.

Wisk Aero will own, operate and maintain up to 30 eVTOL aircraft. The Blade urban air mobility network will offer them. The deployment of Wisk air taxis is waiting on commercial operation certification from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).

“We have been focused on developing an aircraft and customer experience that is efficient, accessible and most importantly, safe,” Wisk CEO Gary Gysin said in a release announcing the deal. “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.”

eVTOL Pilot
Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

Blade Partnerships Adds to eVTOL Venture

Blade’s new partnership with Wisk Aero is the company’s latest step to add eVTOLs to its charter network. Just last month, Blade inked a deal with Beta Technologies. The deal calls for operating of 20 piloted eVTOLs that will begin in 2025.

However, in contrast to the Beta Technologies aircraft, the Wisk is designing its eVTOLs to fly autonomously. They will take two passengers up to 25 miles when fully charged.

“We look forward to working with Wisk to help accelerate Blade’s transition from conventional rotorcraft to safe, quiet, emission-free electric vertical aircraft,” Rob Wiesenthal, CEO of Blade, said in a press release announcing the deal.

Under the terms of the partnership, Wisk Aero will own and operate up to 30 aircraft through Blade. Blade will offer them on Blade’s network of dedicated air terminals on short-distance routes. Flight time, as well as anticipated minimum flight-hour guarantees, will set the amount of compensation.

Insiders say that it’s a wise move for both companies because Blade doesn’t own aircraft itself. The company instead brokers private air travel service through a digital platform. And right now, the craft they offer are conventional rotorcraft, like helicopters and seaplanes. The new partnership with Wisk Aero will help Blade’s move transition from conventional rotorcraft to eVTOLs.

About Wisk Aero and the eVTOL

Wisk builds autonomous eVTOLs. The company began in 2019 when Boeing agreed to combine some of its development work on eVTOLs with a division of Kitty Hawk. Kitty Hawk is the firm owned by Google co-founder Larry Page and Sebastian Thrun. Wisk Aero is based in Mountain View, CA and has locations in Atlanta, GA and New Zealand.

Kitty Hawk started in 2010 with one of the first self-flying air taxis. Since then, the firm has logged roughly 1,500 test flights with full-scale aircraft.

Wisk Lawsuit

Last month, Wisk filed a federal lawsuit against Archer Aviation , a company that’s also developing an eVTOL. Wisk alleged Archer of “brazen theft.”

On its website, Wisk says that “Unfortunately, and as discussed in the Complaint we filed earlier today, it appears that Archer Aviation, a new entrant in the eVTOL market, is seeking to gain a foothold in this industry without respecting the rules of fair competition.”

Wisk’s complaint accused Archer of stealing intellectual property and confidential information. Wish says they discovered “significant and troubling evidence indicating that Archer has been using Wisk’s proprietary intellectual property without our permission.” Wish claims the misappropriation of thousands of highly confidential files. The files contained “very valuable” trade secrets, as well as the use of significant innovations patented by Wisk.

Wisk says “the striking similarity in these designs could not have been a coincidence.”

Archer denied the allegations and responded that they intend to defend themselves “vigorously.”

Archer Hired Wisk Personnel

Vettery co-founders Brett Adcock and Adam Goldstein founded Archer in May 2020. Their team included highly paid talent poached from other eVTOL developers, including multiple engineers from Wisk. In fact, Archer’s vice president of engineering Tom Muniz previously held that position at Wisk.

Archer has hired at least 20 former Wisk employees in total. Wisk has been in the business of developing eVTOL aircraft for more than 10 years.

According to Deloitte, passenger and cargo eVTOLs will be a $4 billion market by 2025 and $57 billion by 2035.