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The Year Ahead

No, Really, Flying Taxis Are Getting Close to Takeoff

Billions of dollars have flowed into companies working to change “eVTOLs” from a gimmick to a standard mode of transportation.

Startups around the globe are in the final stage of developing and refining the technology behind what the industry calls eVTOLs, or electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. These flying taxis are battery-powered and, the companies say, destined to fly without a pilot—once regulations allow. Billions of dollars flowed into the sector in 2021, as well as an impressive number of orders, mostly from commercial airlines. The next 18 months will be pivotal for the fledgling industry, as manufacturers run vital test flights and finalize plans for so-called vertiports and regulators consider how best to guarantee safety.

Nowhere has the prospect of the electric air taxi been greeted as eagerly as in airline boardrooms. Even as the travel industry fights to survive the coronavirus crisis, the world’s leading carriers have been embracing the promise of eVTOLs, placing tentative orders for more than 1,500 of the craft in the past two years.