Once the design, manufacturing and certification of electric aircraft is complete, urban air mobility companies face a cascade of logistical issues, including building an app that can connect customers to rides and finding dedicated take-off and landing areas.
A new partnership between autonomous air taxi developer Wisk Aero and air mobility ride platform Blade Urban Air Mobility aims to provide a solution.
Under the terms of the agreement, Wisk will own and operate up to 30 aircraft on Blade’s network of dedicated air terminals along short-distance routes. Wisk will be compensated based on flight time, along anticipated minimum flight-hour guarantees, the companies said in a news release Wednesday.
It’s a smart move for both companies. Blade does not own aircraft itself, but instead brokers private air travel service through a digital platform. However, the craft they offer are conventional rotorcraft, such as helicopters and seaplanes. The partnership will help “accelerate Blade’s transition from conventional rotorcraft to safe, quiet, emission-free Electric Vertical Aircraft,” Rob Wiesenthal, CEO of Blade, said in a statement.
Wisk, born out of a joint venture between Kitty Hawk and Boeing, will be able to benefit from Blade’s experience as an air mobility service provider. Once Wisk achieves certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, it will be able to immediately ramp up via Blade’s network.
The companies say they are committed to an “open-network” approach to Urban Air Mobility, with Wisk providing aircraft to multiple customer platforms and likewise Blade using many different electric aircraft developers for its ride services. Not all electric vertical take-off and landing companies will likely take the partnership route. Joby Aviation CEO JoeBen Bevirt has stated publicly that the company intends to be vertically integrated between its vehicle development and air taxi operations.
Blade is one of a suite of air mobility companies, including Joby, that have announced its intention to go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company. In December 2020 Blade said it would merge with SPAC Experience Investment Corp. at a valuation of $825 million. The deal includes $400 million in gross proceeds and $125 million in private investment in public equity (PIPE).