2021 has been a remarkable year for the electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOL) industry, which saw 5 companies go public through SPAC mergers, at valuations between $1 billion and $2 billion. 

Video summary of the article:

Several frontrunners are targeting scaled production and regulatory approvals by 2023, if not sooner. Some eVTOL's in the US, that do not require a pilot license, are already available for pre-order. As of 2021, the six most promising companies in this space are:

  • Kitty Hawk - Capacity: Single Seat
  • Wisk Aero—Cora - Capacity: Two Passengers
  • Archer Aviation—Maker - Capacity: Four Passengers
  • Joby Aviation—S4 - Capacity: Four Passengers
  • SkyDive (Japan)— SD-03 - Capacity: Single Seat
  • Jetson Aero (Sweden)—Jetson one - Capacity: Single Seat
What are some of these companies bringing to the table?
  • Kitty Hawk is probably the oldest kid on the block, when it comes to eVTOL's. It was established almost 10 years ago, by Google cofounder Larry Page. Kitty Hawk tops out at 100 mph, and is targeting a range of 100 miles. It is also intended to be fully autonomous i.e no pilot required.
  • Cora, a product from Wisk Aero, is also intended to be fully autonomous. Wisk’s goal is to build an eVTOL that can be used as an urban air taxi, at a price comparable to Uber X ($4 - $8 per passenger mile).
  • Archer Aviation has an ambitious timeline to start volume production as soon as 2023. The company completed its first hover test flight at an undisclosed location in California.
  • Joby Aviation, acquired Uber’s flying car division (Uber Elevate) in 2020. Joby’s S4 prototype, is a piloted aircraft and can fly up to 4 passengers for 150 miles, on a single charge. 
How are Airplane industry players dealing with new competition?

The Airplane manufacturers and service provides, are not sitting still and watching the new kids eat their lunches. As the saying goes, if you can't beat them join them. That's almost what's happening here:

Boeing has agreed to invest $450 million in Wisk Aero. The funding round is one of the largest in the nascent industry.

Airbus SE and Embraer SA, are building their own offerings. The U.S. Air Force has even gotten into the action and is developing flying taxis for military use, according to WSJ.

Archer Aviation has already sold $1 billion worth of pre-orders to United Airlines.

American Airlines has placed a conditional order for up to 250 of UK based Vertical Aerospace's prototype aircraft, at $4 million each. Virgin Atlantic has placed an order for 150 aircrafts and aircraft leasing company Avolon has pre-ordered 500 eVTOLs.

How are the certifications coming along?

For eVTOLs to be deployed commercially at scale, three aviation regulatory approvals will be required
  1. Type (manufacturing design)
  2. Production (scale production)
  3. Operational (commercial)
In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working to adapt existing aviation regulations to accommodate eVTOL technology.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), is drafting regulations, along with a new eVTOL certification framework. As a result, there will be a new set of rules, with incorporation of existing regulations where possible.

The so what of all this?

Our traveling habits are about to undergo a serious face lift - think going from wired lines to wireless communications. This provides an opportunity for new business and services to get formed.