After years of development, several electric air taxi companies have taken to the skies with production prototypes and plan to launch passenger service by the end of 2025. 

Brian Yutko, chief executive of autonomous air taxi start-up Wisk Aero, believes public awareness of urban air mobility will likely build through social channels, boosting the sector’s vision of changing how people move through cities. 

“Everyone who takes a ride on one of these things is going to post a video on social media,” he tells FlightGlobal during a 4 December tour of Wisk’s sprawling complex in Mountain View, California. 

Generating hype comes with the territory, as eVTOL start-ups seek to attract attention, investors and future customers. However, outside of a few notable public appearances this year – including during the Paris air show, at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh and most recently during a demonstration in Long Beach, California – Wisk has been flying somewhat under the radar relative to its peers, especially considering that its proposed all-electric aircraft is entirely autonomous.

”We know what we’re doing is very novel, and we know that it’s very difficult,” Yutko says. ”We know that we’re paving new ground with regulations, some of these things that are not in our control. So, we’re going to put our very best foot forward and then some, but we don’t shout our dates from the rooftops.” 


Source: Wisk Aero

Wisk calls its sixth-generation aircraft “the world’s first all-electric, autonomous, four-seat eVTOL” 

Wisk plans to start flying passengers in its autonomous air taxi before the end of the decade, presumably in the footsteps of leading US air taxi developers Archer Aviation, Beta Technologies and Joby Aviation. It has yet to set target dates for certification and service entry or identify specific launch markets. 

Not setting a public deadline helps relieve pressure on Wisk’s development team and encourages the company to “do the right thing from the safety standpoint”, Yutko says. “We’re protecting our team to operate in the right environment. We’re also being totally truthful and authentic with what we control and what we don’t control.”

The company remains a potential participant in an eVTOL showcase during the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, as Yutko previously hinted during the Paris air show in June. “Certainly, anybody in this industry will tell you that the Olympics in ’28 is interesting,” he says. “We’re in the same camp if things stay on the schedule that we’d like them to.” 

Wisk, now wholly owned by Boeing, has higher aims than making a splashy market entrance. Company executives say they want to make people’s daily commutes or trips to the airport more manageable, and for its technology to be broadly accessible. 

Chief marketing officer Becky Tanner says, ”Ultimately, if we can show that this is a useful transportation option, I think that’s the most important piece.”


In one of the company’s Mountain View buildings, a sizeable space that looks like an advanced computer lab is devoted to assembling the electronic flight systems that will be integrated into Wisk’s air taxi – minus the airframe. 

“This whole room will literally be an airplane,” Yutko says. “It won’t look like an airplane, but it will have all the computers, the [printed circuit boards], the actuation – everything that is on that airplane will be in this room. It will be talking to computers here and in the cloud that will drive all the actuation and software so that the airplane thinks that it’s flying.” 

By the time Wisk flies its sixth-generation aircraft for the first time next year, the system will believe that it is taking its 50,000th flight, Yutko says. 

In an adjoining room, the company is developing a ground-based aircraft monitoring system, in which a human will supervise multiple aircraft simultaneously, communicating with air traffic control and sending basic commands when necessary. 


Source: Wisk Aero

Brian Yutko speaks during EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where Wisk flew its fifth-generation test aircraft for the first time at a public event 

Wisk has a three-pronged certification strategy, starting with type and production certification. “That is airplane-related stuff that everybody is familiar with,” Yutko says. 

But the second layer is more complicated, as autonomous aircraft will need special operational approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. 

“You also need to get the operational approvals to be able to fly the airplane, and that’s something the industry doesn’t normally think about,” he says. ”If you’re Boeing and you make a 737, you do not need to apply to operate the airplane because the type certification already takes into consideration what the air transportation system is and how those aircraft will operate.” 

The third aspect of Wisk’s certification strategy is developing qualifications for the envisioned multi-vehicle supervisors. “We still have a person, it’s just that they sit on the ground and they have a new role, so those qualifications need to get sorted out,” Yutko says. 

In a major milestone in its quest for certification, the company recently completed flight trials in controlled airspace with a drone in New Zealand, where Wisk has a hub. 

”They operated beyond visual line-of-sight, with no chase plane or anything, on IFR flight plans, and doing traffic avoidance amongst other airlplanes,” Yutko says. “It’s exactly what we want to do with Gen 6 – that’s an uncrewed airplane on an IFR flight plan, flying in controlled airspace.” 


Wisk is in the early stages of assembling the production prototype of its sixth-generation aircraft and plans to fly the fully autonomous vehicle next year. 

A full-scale mock-up of Wisk’s sixth-generation aircraft currently sits in one of the company’s industrial spaces in Mountain View. The production version of Gen 6 will differ subtly from the mock-up, Yutko says, with a sleeker fuselage and redesigned interior. 

Despite its 12 rotors – the front six of which are tiltrotors – the aircraft is modest in appearance, similar in many regards to a conventional fixed-wing aircraft. 

Aware that a self-flying aircraft could be intimidating to consumers, Wisk has taken pains to make its vehicle feel approachable. With its bright-yellow, box-like body, Wisk’s Gen 6 aircraft is designed to evoke minivan levels of familiarity. Yellow was selected not because it recalls taxi cabs, but because it is a warm, friendly colour, Tanner says. 

“What people are familiar with and expect is absolutely central to everything that we’re doing here,” she says. ”If you have that safety mentality, then what are the other things that we want to make this feel fun, feel safe and feel like a worthwhile thing that’s adding value?” 

With no flight controls on board, the cabin’s design appears simple and practical. Much thought has gone into small details, including where hand-holds are placed and how lighting affects a rider’s experience. 

Leading this people-guided development process is director of product design Uri Tzarnotsky, who tells FlightGlobal that the configuration of Wisk’s aircraft has been built on feedback from hundreds of test users. 

Initially, the cabin was designed for efficiency with one door and four seats – two rows facing each other. After initial testing showed passengers tend to behave awkwardly while sitting face-to-face, however, it was changed to four forward-facing seats. The aircraft now has four doors that open wide to allow greater accessibility. 

“In all the testing, we’ve brought in kids and their parents, elderly people, people that have assisted mobility devices,” Tzarnotsky says. “Getting them to use the different doors, different grips, different steps, different ramps and finding out what could be for everyone, it became this very conventional sedan that is just better for people and usability.”


Source: Wisk Aero

Wisk has involved hundreds of people in test runs to ensure that its aircraft is broadly useable for people of various abilities 

Lately, test feedback has been concentrating on specifics, such as where cup holders should go, which Tzarnotsky takes as a sign of the design’s maturity. He has overseen aircraft configuration for the company for 13 years, helping develop some of Silicon Valley’s earliest eVTOL concepts. He recalls an early test flight before the company had decided to pursue 100% autonomous technology, during which a piloted aircraft hovered side-by-side with a computer-controlled one. 

“Basically, you could see the pilot flying with a stick moving around and bobbing,” he says. ”And the one that’s computer controlled looks unreal; like it’s floating in space. And we were like, ’This is the future, right?’ The computer can react to turbulence so much faster.”

The company’s air taxi designs have looked progressively more like conventional aircraft with each new generation, as Tzarnotsky says that an electric aircraft lacking a fixed wing would be capable of “only very short hops”. 

“When you look at some other eVTOLs, I think the first thing laypeople will notice is whether there is a wing or not,” he says. “Well, if it’s not flying conventionally on a wing, it’s not going to fly efficiently because it’s always going to be on the rotor.” 

“People start with something wild because they have a notion of where the centre of gravity needs to be, or what kind of control actuation you need, but as most evolve they gravitate to this,” he adds, gesturing to the Gen 6 airframe.

Wisk expects to build no more than 10 aircraft during its initial production run. Then, it will look to scale production at a planned manufacturing facility, the location of which will be revealed shortly, executives say. 

While Tzarnotsky is excited to see the completed prototype of Gen 6, he is most eager for the launch of the company’s first passenger flights, because that is when Wisk’s technology will start making a difference in people’s lives.

“I’m most proud of putting people at the centre of this process,” he says. 

Wisk's six-generation air taxi demonstrator

Source: Wisk Aero

Wisk’s air taxi will have an estimated range of 78nm (144km) based on current battery technology