Boeing invests $450 million in air taxi startup

Boeing is doubling down on its investment in the autonomous air taxi company Wisk Aero.

The plane maker is committing another $450 million to the Silicon Valley startup that is developing its technology jointly with Kittyhawk, the self-flying aviation company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page.

“With this investment, we are reconfirming our belief in Wisk’s business and the importance of their work in pioneering all-electric, AI-driven, autonomous capability for the aerospace industry,” said Boeing Chief Strategy Officer Marc Allen.

“Autonomy is the key to unlocking scale across all advanced air mobility applications, from passenger to cargo and beyond.

“That’s why straight-to-autonomy is a core first principle.”

Competition in the air taxi space is stiff, as rivals such as Joby Aviation and German firm Lilium have already tested prototypes.

Since 2010, funding for air taxis has reached $12.7 billion. Last year alone, funding more than doubled to $7 billion, according to an analysis by McKinsey.

Within the next decade, there could be some 20,000 daily flights of air taxis, according to McKinsey.

Wisk says the funding will enable it to add to its current workforce of 350 employees. Within five years, it hopes to begin conducting 14 million annual commercial flights in 20 major cities around the world.

Boeing is doubling down on the air taxi industry, which is expected to begin offering commercial flights sometime this decade.
AFP via Getty Images

The company says that the infusion of cash will also boost production of its sixth-generation eVTOLs — or an electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle.

Wisk says that the latest iteration is a “competitive differentiator” from its rivals in that it is “enabled by the company’s autonomous technology.”

The funding round is good news for Wisk, particularly in light of a lengthy legal battle it has been waging with a competitor over the last year.

Archer Aviation sued Wisk for $1 billion after Wisk initially accused the United Airlines-backed startup of stealing trade secrets involving its eVTOL.

Archer’s countersuit was filed last summer in response to Wisk’s “false and malicious extra-judicial smear campaign that has caused substantial damage to Archer.”

Archer plans to commercially launch its first electric flying taxi “Maker” in 2024.

Wisk first sued Archer last spring for allegedly ripping off its electric-powered airplane design after it hired away several of the company’s engineers in December 2019 and January 2020.

But Archer — whose investors include United Airlines and the auto giant that controls Fiat-Chrysler and Ferrari, as well as Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez — argued that Wisk in fact stole the designs at the center of the case.