The Urban Air Mobility company recently announced further progression of its Transport Trial with the New Zealand government
Despite Covid, it really is an exciting time to be alive if you’re interested in air travel. We’ve seen technological advancements progressing at breakneck speed in recent years, and the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) field is probably one of the most exciting areas for technological development in aviation at the moment. From companies like Vertical Aerospace looking to integrate cheap VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) flights in the city of London, to the recent news of Wisk Aerospace doing the same for the whole of New Zealand – the future is approaching faster than it ever has before. Readers may remember the article I wrote about Vertical a while back, but this time I want to focus on Wisk. The company began back in 2019 as a joint venture between Boeing and the Kitty Hawk corporation – a company dedicated to the development of a small, remotely controlled ‘air taxis’. Yes, you heard that right – remote-controlled. This ‘sky Tesla’ as I’m going to call it, is essentially a remote-controlled, eVTOL (electronic vertical take off and landing) craft, designed by Kitty Hawk in 2017. The company rebranded its eVTOL arm to Wisk, along with a tasty $450 mill funding package from Boeing – easily enough to get the plucky start-up off the ground. Now one of the most well-funded UAM companies on the planet, Wisk is making big moves to cement the utility of all-electric UAM vehicles as the future of aviation. They signed a memorandum of understanding with the New Zealand government back in 2020 in order to establish its Transport
Trial under the umbrella of New Zealand’s Airspace Integration Trial Programme to achieve that goal.
The programme has since launched with its first round of trials being completed at the tail end of 2021, and things seem to be going well for the company. At least, a further $495 mill donation from Boeing at the end of January might make that seem apparent. With all this funding, Wisk have now begun solidifying their presence in New Zealand with the launching of a second round of trials, putting them well on their way to achieving a certified eVTOL integration into the country. This would see the remotely piloted craft used widely across New Zealand, and mark a huge step in progression for the UAM industry as a whole. “New Zealand’s focus on decarbonizing its economy as part of the electric transport evolution directly aligns with Wisk’s mission to deliver safe, everyday flight for everyone through effective, accessible and sustainable urban air mobility solutions.” Stated Anna Kominik, the Asia Pacific Region Director for Wisk. Indeed, if these trials continue to be successful, we really will see people flying around in pilotless air taxis becoming the norm (at least in NZ). What I predict will be the real challenge for the company, is getting people to actually trust in a plane being flown from the ground. Nothing like putting your life in the hands of a drone, eh?