Californian Air Mobility company Wisk Aero and Japan Airlines (JAL) joined forces to introduce fully electric, autopiloted aircraft to Japan.
The companies are prepared to lay the groundwork for air taxis nationwide if the launch of self-flying eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) is successful.
The partnership was announced on May 9, 2023, and will additionally include Japan Airlines’ engineering division, JAL Engineering (JALEC), to establish the appropriate maintenance and operation work for Wisk’s sixth-generation electric aircraft.
“Wisk and Japan Airlines share a commitment to safe, accessible transportation and to ensuring that our services provide long-term benefit to the communities that we serve”, Brian Yutko, CEO of Wisk said. “We look forward to working together to bring autonomous everyday flight to Japan and to further advancing Advanced Air Mobility in the broader APAC region.”
Wisk’s air taxi is expected to have a maximum operating altitude of 2,500 to 4,000 feet (760 – 1,220 meters) with a range of 90 miles (144 kilometers) and a cruise speed of 120 knots (222 kilometers per hour). As certain parts of Japan are affected by heavy road traffic, air taxis can serve as a quick transportation solution. Ryo Tamura, CEO of JALEC, views this partnership as “the first step towards the development of safe air mobility in Japan.”
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the companies aims to establish a framework for research that demonstrates the aircraft’s capabilities in Japanese airspace and the launches of fleet operations. Additionally, it will support the type certification approval of the vehicle in Japan, ensuring its future operation in the region.
Japan Airlines had previously anticipated launching flying cars by 2025 alongside an agreement with aircraft leasing company Avolon signed in October 2021. However, no official statement or update has been made regarding the commercial launch of this eVTOL self-flying taxi in Japan since then.