The Exploding World Of eVTOL Added 200 New Models Last Year – Robb Report
The eVTOL world continues to grow, according to a recent report from the Vertical Flight Society (VFS). The non-profit organization said its Electric VTOL directory recently reached 600 concepts from 350 companies around the world. VFS executive director Mike Hirschberg said nearly 200 new models were added directly last year. He said the number of concepts had doubled in the past 18 months.
The amount of funding has also increased dramatically in the last year alone. VFS estimated total investment in eVTOL businesses from 2010 to 2020 to be $4.5 billion. The 2021 figure, Hirschberg said, was more than $10 billion, thanks to companies like Joby, Archer, Blade and Vertical Aerospace going public, while private investors are pouring R&D funds into others as well. The nonprofit is hosting its annual VTOL Electric Symposium as a hybrid/in-person event through January 27.
Several eVTOL manufacturers reported financial and regulatory news last week. Wisk said Monday it had received a $450 million commitment from Boeing to advance its autonomous eVTOL aircraft. The California-based company said the fund would enable it to develop its sixth-generation eVTOL aircraft. Eventually, he expects the aircraft to achieve FAA certification as an autonomous, all-electric, passenger-carrying aircraft.
Wisk CEO Gary Gysin said the funds would also be used to scale manufacturing and hire new experts. The company is forgoing piloted electric planes and moving straight to autonomous flight. Wisk said he doesn’t expect to be the first to market with an eVTOL, but he expects to be the first with a fully autonomous air taxi. Within five years of certification, it said it expects to operate nearly 14 million flights each year in 20 cities.
Competitor Joby intends to be one of the first manufacturers of piloted eVTOLs. He said in a tweet on Monday that his full-scale prototype performed the fastest flight of any eVTOL aircraft to date. The company said the air taxi had an actual speed of 205 mph. Last July, the same S4 plane flew 154.6 miles in a 77-minute flight on a single charge.
Joby also announced that it recently received a special airworthiness certificate from the FAA for its second pre-production prototype. CEO JoeBen Bevirt said it would “significantly accelerate” Joby’s flight test capabilities this year. It plans to launch commercial operations in 2024.
Chinese competitor EHang said it received a pre-order for 50 of its two-seat autonomous EH216 eVTOLs from Japanese company AirX, a helicopter flight booking platform. AirX plans to use it for the air taxi and tourism markets. EHang said recently that he expects to receive certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China “in the coming months.”
As the industry grows, Hirschberg said VFS membership grew nearly 20% last year to 160 corporate members. The membership base has grown by 30% over the past five years.