The market for trips in ‘flying taxis’ could be worth $674 billion by 2040 according to Morgan Stanley, as better batteries and lightweight materials make short-range battery-powered electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) craft a commercially viable prospect. The Carmakers consultancy’s Natasha Smith estimates that up to 300 firms are working on prototypes, while the US Federal Aviation Administration is reported to be in discussions with around 30 aerospace and technology firms about a certification process.
Investors are already getting in on the act. In February, Archer Aviation announced its intention to become a publicly traded company, and disclosed that United Airlines had committed to the purchase of 200 of its Urban Electric Jets. At the end of last month, German would-be flying taxi manufacturer Lilium announced a reverse merger with a special-purpose acquisition company (Spac) that valued it at $3.3bn, while the California-based Joby Aviation has been valued at nearly $7bn.
In a sure sign that the stakes are getting higher, the lawsuits have started flying before the eVTOLs themselves. Earlier this month, the Boeing-backed Wisk Aero sued Archer Aviation in the US federal court, alleging that Archer stole trade secrets, infringed on patents and copied Wisk’s aircraft design. Archer denies the allegations.