Yesterday, the aviation giant Boeing invested $450 million into Wisk, an all-electric, autonomous air taxi designer.
It's the latest indication that the market for these vehicles is getting ready to take off.
Wisk has a lot of competition prepping to launch. The publicly traded Joby Aviation, which is backed by Toyota, has a market cap of $2.6 billion and plenty of firepower to pour into development. And Europe's EVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) player Lilium also managed to tap public markets last year to finance its own efforts to take flight.
Last week Joby's aircraft hit speeds of 205 miles per hour in test flights, according to a report in NewAtlas.
In the U.S. cities like Los Angeles and Miami are already laying the ... airwork(?)... for electric aircraft to take to the skies as a new form of shared transit.
LA established Urban Movement Labs in 2019 to prep the city for urban air transit by early as 2025, according to a report in The New York Times.
Miami also wants to use eVTOLs as a replacement for buses and light rail transit, according to Mayor Francis Suarez.
“We feel that one of the flaws in transportation planning and funding has been retreading yesterday’s ideas,” Suarez told the Times. “The sky obviously has multiple dimensions and gives you the ability to be creative.”
It's likely the prospect of a new market for aircraft manufacturers and a chance to revive Boeing's tarnished reputation in the wake of its tragically flawed 737 Max rollout that's behind the company's big push into eVTOL.
Wisk is hoping to use the money to accelerate the sixth generation of its autonomous vehicle. With a commercial launch, Wisk is hoping to reach 14 million annual flights bringing time savings to over 40 million people across 20 cities – all with zero emissions, according to the company.
“With this investment, we are reconfirming our belief in Wisk’s business and the importance of their work in pioneering all-electric, AI-driven, autonomous capability for the aerospace industry," said Marc Allen, Chief Strategy Officer of Boeing, in a statement. "Autonomy is the key to unlocking scale across all AAM applications, from passenger to cargo and beyond. That’s why straight-to-autonomy is a core first principle. Boeing and Wisk have been at the forefront of AAM innovation for more than a decade, and will continue to lead in the years ahead.”
If Wisk is able to turn its vision into a reality, it'd be the culmination of a development journey that began roughly twelve years ago. Through the years, Wisk has seen a merger with Kitty Hawk Corp. and then the spinout of its team thanks to Boeing's financial backing.
Through its history, Wisk notched a series of firsts, including being the first all-electric, autonomous, eVTOL aircraft designed for passengers to take flight in the U.S.