Aeronautics is currently entering an interesting transition phase, and the historical titans of the sector do not intend to lose a beat.
While we are currently witnessing the proliferation of a new generation of small private aircraft, the titans of traditional aeronautics were still surprisingly discreet in this segment. Yesterday, Boeing entered the fray by investing around 400 million euros in its Wisk Aero branch.
With this massive envelope, this company co-owned by the historic aircraft manufacturer and Larry Page, co-founder of Google, instantly becomes one of the best-funded firms in its category. It also has considerable leeway; indeed, unlike almost all of its competitors, it is not listed on the stock exchange. All of its funds come from private investors like Boeing.
It therefore has considerable resources to develop its eVTOL concept. This acronym designates a whole range of electric aircraft capable of flying like an airplane while taking off and landing vertically, like a helicopter. A concept that is definitely on the rise; we have recently noticed a certain effervescence on the side of Japan, the United States, and also Nice Airport.
A 100% autonomous eVTOL
At present, Wisk has released very little technical information about the device. We just know its cruising speed (160 km/h), its range (approximately 40km), and its operational altitude (between 1500 and 5000 feet, i.e. 500 to 1500m above sea level). The Wisk concept nevertheless has a particularity that differentiates it from its competitors such as Joby or Airspeeder.
Indeed, thanks to the envelope granted by Boeing, the engineers count get ahead of the first generation of eVTOLs; instead of working on a device with pilot like the majority of the sector, they directly want switch to a fully autonomous flying taxi. It will theoretically be able to transport up to two people safely without any human intervention.
Currently, this approach obviously presents immense logistical, regulatory and security obstacles. The majority of them are still very far from being crossed, and Boeing is well aware of this. It is probably for this reason that the aircraft manufacturer wants to skip the manned flight stage entirely.
There’s no point in running, you have to take off on time
Indeed, it will still take very long years to polish all these friction points. The first generation could therefore be the victim of a unfortunate timing, with devices that are certainly functional, but unusable due to a lack of infrastructure and regulations; remember that unlike the Japanese authorities, the US Air Force has not yet certified a single evTOL model.
Industry experts believe that it will still take at least five years to reach this deadline. But in all likelihood, that delay will be significantly greater still for a standalone device like this; it seems inconceivable that such a device will be deployed on the market before the next decade. Boeing therefore probably considers that it has no no interest in rushing to arrive first in this market; what will be important is above all toto be well positioned at the time of its democratization, which seems increasingly inevitable. See you in ten years to find out if Boeing’s strategy is the right one!