May 11, 2023
A California company has announced a partnership with Japan Airlines (JAL) that could see self-flying air taxis introduced in Japan.
The company, Wisk, Aero, is headquartered in Mountain View and manufactures self-flying electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) craft.
JAL is Japan’s second biggest airline and one of the most respected operators in the world.
The agreement also involves JAL Engineering (JALEC) which would be involved in the maintenance and operation of the eVTOL fleet.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed that establishes a framework for the collaboration.
Among the areas it addresses are research into how the service would work, including type certification approval; maintenance and repair requirements; liaison with the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau and Japanese Government agencies; development of a pathway to a demonstration flight; and the integration of autonomous aircraft into Japanese airspace.
The eVTOL being planned for launch is Wisk’s Generation 6, which the company says is “the world’s first all-electric, autonomous, four-seat eVTOL air taxi designed for passenger transport.”
Generation 6 has a wingspan of fewer than 50 feet and has been designed to cruise at 2,500 to 4,000 feet, reaching speeds of 138 mph. Range is estimated at 90 miles, with a charging time of 15 minutes, for navigating relatively short journeys across Japan’s congested urban areas.
The maximum capacity is four, and there is room for carry-on luggage.
No timeframe has been issued as to when operations might be expected to commence.
Catherine MacGowan, Wisk’s regional director for the Asia-Pacific region, said: “Japan represents a large, densely populated market where air taxi services can provide real, positive impact for local communities. We look forward to further pursuing the potential introduction of our self-flying, all-electric air taxis in Japan, and are encouraged by the growing interest within the broader APAC region for these types of services.”
Ryo Tamura, CEO of JALEC in Japan, added: “The introduction of autonomous air travel is developing and we strongly feel that this partnership with Wisk is the first step towards the development of the next generation of safe air mobility in Japan.”
Wisk, which was founded in 2019, has enjoyed backing from Boeing and Kittyhawk Corporation, the aero company once bankrolled by Google co-founder Larry Page. Wisk’s core team have been working on eVTOL craft since 2010 and say they have completed more than 1,600 test flights.
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