Boeing is investing $450 million in Wisk Aero, a company working on an autonomous air cab. Boeing sees this as an opportunity to fundamentally change commercial aviation.
Wisk Aero: electric, AI-powered, autonomous
The concept behind the developments of Wisk Aero is relatively simple: work is being done on an air cab that will be able to take off vertically, controlled by an AI and powered electrically. Not only is it not dependent on a control person, but it can also be used independently of runways – and is also environmentally friendly. The company was born out of a collaboration between Boeing and Kitty Hawk. The latter company was founded by Google co-founder Larry Page and presented its first in-house development in 2018, a vertical take-off air cab for two people.
Wisk Aero has produced five generations of flight cabs to date, but all have been used for testing purposes only. The company still appears to be well away from a market-ready product. However, it took a major step in that direction last November when it presented one of its developments to a wider public for the first time at the CoMotion La air show.
The aircraft presented there was first tested in autonomous flight mode in 2017. It is six meters long, has twelve propellers attached to two fixed wings with a total span of twelve meters, and can accelerate up to 160 kilometers per hour. The total range is 40 kilometers, and the flight altitude is limited to 1,500 meters.
Autonomous flying in everyday life?
Wisk-Aero CEO Gary Gysin expressed his delight at the continued investment by Boeing. He said he is pleased to have Boeing on board as both an investor and a strategic partner. Wisk Aero benefits from the world-renowned company’s vast expertise and reach, he said. As a result, he sees Wisk Aero well on its way to being able to establish autonomous flight in everyday life in the long term.
Marc Allen, chief strategy officer at Boeing, is similarly optimistic. He sees Wisk Aero as a pioneer in the field of autonomous flying, in which he sees an opportunity to make flights accessible to passengers and cargo at a low threshold.