Prarthana Prakash FORTUNE
A flying taxi just completed its first flight test as major airlines bet big on the new technology 
September 27, 2022
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  • It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s a flying taxi! 

    An aircraft created by British startup Vertical Aerospace successfully completed its first test flight, the company announced Monday, marking a breakthrough of sorts for the aviation industry that seems increasingly interested in a new kind of passenger air travel. 

    Flying taxis like the VX4 aircraft produce zero operating emissions and are able to cruise at a speed of over 200 miles per hour and a distance of over 100 miles, according to a statement by the company. The VX4 uses electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) technology which is powered by a battery rather than jet fuel. 

    “This is a major milestone for the company. As you can imagine, whilst this is just the start, it is also the culmination of years of work; Vertical have been preparing for this day since inception in 2016,” a spokesperson from Vertical Aerospace told Fortune. 

    Airline and tech companies have been looking to gain ground in the emerging air taxi industry, and as the aviation industry as a whole gears up to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 set by the International Air Transport Association, companies developing vehicles consuming clean fuel are garnering wide interest. The electric air taxis sector is expected to be worth $3.39 billion in 2030, according to Allied Market Research. 

    In August, United Airlines made a $10 million pre-delivery payment to Archer Aviation, an American electric aviation company, for 100 eVTOL vehicles. The airline also signed a purchase agreement for as many as 400 eVTOLS from another company, Eve Air Mobility. 

    Vertical Aerospace says the test run of the VX4 was conducted inside an aircraft hanger with a pilot to demonstrate how the aircraft is complying with stringent safety rules. The vehicle remained tethered to the ground for safety while its propellers thrust it off the ground. 

    The company said it aims to receive full certification for the VX4 by 2025, reporting considerable demand from airline operators, lessors and tourism companies. American Airlines preordered 250 VX4s in June 2021, and Virgin Airlines ordered 150 of the VX4s designed to carry four passengers on short, 30-minute flights. Elsewhere in the world, the likes of AirAsia and Japan Airlines have also been among those interested in launching flying taxis, the company said in a statement. 

    The price point of these air taxis could determine how they are adopted commercially. In the initial phase, the price of a flying taxi ride would be comparable to Uber Black services, Michael Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures, told the Wall Street Journal in August. He gave the example of a trip from Manhattan to an airport in New York costing between $110 and $120, noting that these costs could drop over time.