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Wisk Aero, the electric air taxi startup, raised $450 million from Boeing in a new funding round that it claims will make it one of the most well-funded advanced air mobility companies in the world.
Wisk highlights the fact that it is a privately-backed AAM leader, setting up a contrast with a slate of similar startups that have gone public in recent months by merging with special purpose acquisition companies. Larry Page bankrolled the flying taxi company Kitty Hawk, which formed a joint venture with Boeing.
Wisk says it will use the new funds to undertake a period of rapid growth, adding new employees to its current workforce of approximately 350 people and kicking off a manufacturing process that it says will result in a full-scale, commercially operational air taxi business within the next five years. 14 million flights will be conducted annually in around 20 major markets around the globe once that happens, according to the company.
Fourteen million flights are predicted by the company.
The approval Wisk needs to legally carry passengers is dependent on the US Federal Aviation Administration and other government regulators. The FAA has not certified any electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for commercial use. It can take at least five years for regulators to certify that the new types of aircraft are safe for passengers, according to experts.
Electric air taxis are small helicopters without the noise and pollution of gas engines. A number of startups have emerged in recent years with prototype aircraft that are electric-powered, able to carry a handful of passengers, and intended for short flights within a city or region. The flying taxi market could grow to $150 billion in revenue by the year 2035, according to analysts.
Wisk has not let the lack of regulatory approval affect its business dealings. The company made a deal last year with Blade to own and operate a fleet of 30 aircraft on its network. The government of New Zealand has signed a deal with Wisk to conduct a flying taxi trial.
It's goal is to one day provide a flying taxi service that can be summoned with an app. The vehicle will not have a pilot on board, but will be flown by autopilot systems, with supervision from a human pilot located remotely.
Last year, Wisk accused rival eVTOL company of stealing dozens of its design secrets, sparking a lawsuit and a federal investigation into the allegations.