California’s Wisk Aero claims that it has developed the first self-flying, fully electric, 4-seat air taxi in the world. This is its 6th generation air taxi and it is reportedly “designed to meet and exceed rigorous commercial safety standards, making it one of the safest systems in aviation,” according to Wisk Aero.
But how real is this? Is Wisk Aero really going to bring a self-flying electric air taxi to market? Well, it’s gone further than anyone else up till now. “Generation 6 represents the first-ever candidate for FAA certification of an autonomous, passenger-carrying eVTOL air taxi,” the company writes.
Here are some specs:
- Cruising speed: 120 knots
- Range: 90 miles (~144 kilometers) with reserves
- Flying altitude: 2,500–4,000 ft above ground
- Seats: 4
- Dimensions: <50 foot wingspan
“The most advanced air taxi in the world, Generation 6 combines industry-leading autonomous technology and software, human oversight of every flight, and an overall simplified design to deliver one of the safest passenger transport systems in commercial aviation.” It sounds compelling, but I’ll wait to celebrate until the company is offering a high volume of autonomous robotaxi flights profitably — that’s where the real test lies.
Wisk Aero originated out of an aim to solve for the annoying menace of automobile traffic. This is the dream of many in the eVTOL industry. How much that is possible, and especially for those who are not extremely well off, remains to be seen, but it is certainly the hope that inspired Wisk Aero’s founders. “In 2010, we set out to find a way to skip traffic and get to our destination faster,” said Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk. “That inspiration evolved into a mission to deliver safe, everyday flight for everyone. Over the past 12 years, we’ve pursued that mission through the development of five different generations of full-scale aircraft. Our 6th Generation aircraft is the culmination of years of hard work from our industry-leading team, learnings from our previous generations of aircraft, commitment from our investors, and the evolution and advancement of technology.”
12 years and 6 generations of aircraft — that certainly implies the team has put enough effort into this project that it may well have a great product when it says it does. Though, more evidence than that is who’s behind the company — The Boeing Company and Kitty Hawk Corporation. Wisk Aero is likely not going to make big claims about what it has developed and what it will achieve without the support of managers at Boeing. Plus, with Boeing’s backing, one can expect Wisk has top aircraft engineering experts on its team. “Additionally, through its strategic partnership with Boeing, Wisk has a competitive advantage leveraging 100+ years of Boeing expertise in aircraft development, scale manufacturing, and certification. In addition, Boeing’s eVTOL and autonomy engineering resources help further advance Wisk’s development.”
Wisk is aiming for a customer cost of $3 per passenger per mile.
“The company has conducted 1600+ test flights, and based on this announcement, it seems as though Wisk is almost ready to play a commercial role in the airline industry. “With this aircraft, Wisk will redefine long-standing concepts of flight and usher in a safer, scalable, and more accessible era in aviation. Wisk’s newest aircraft will set the standard for the air taxi market.” We’ll see!
“Curious to learn a little bit more about the history of the company? I was, too. “We began in 2010 and later merged with Kitty Hawk Corporation. Upon recognizing the commercial potential of Wisk’s 5th generation aircraft, the aircraft, its technology, and team were spun out to form Wisk, with an investment from The Boeing Company. Since 2010, the company has designed, developed, and tested five generations of aircraft and completed over 1600+ test flights, without an accident, using one of the world’s largest full-scale fleets of eVTOL aircraft.”
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