Vertical lift aircraft have existed for more than a century in the form of helicopters. But the $49 billion industry faces a rapidly emerging threat.
An estimated 200 companies are working to build electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOLs), a new type of small passenger aircraft designed for transportation within congested urban environments.
"Helicopters are very expensive to operate for a number of reasons, but the biggest reason is that they have multiple points of failure, which eVTOL aircraft won't," said Michael Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures, which has invested in startups in the space called Eve and Archer Aviation. "The electrification makes the aircraft safer. Safer aircraft also becomes less costly to maintain."
They're not on the market yet, but they could eventually become the air taxis of the future. Before they get there, the manufacturers need certification from the Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory agencies. Some companies have optimistically set 2025 as the year when operations will get underway.
Watch the video to learn why we could see these new aircraft change how people travel.