Air taxi startup Vertical Aerospace delays service launch by a year

Vertical Aerospace, the Bristol-based flying taxi startup, has pushed back its launch by a year to 2026, in the latest sign of a revolution in “urban aviation advocacy“It took longer to fly than expected.

Vertical, which is listed on Nasdaq, told investors earlier this month that it is now targeting certification of its vehicles by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) “by the end of 2026”. This is the second time the company has delayed the certification since April 2022, when it changed from 2024 to 2025.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, the company’s founder and chief executive officer, said: “Trying to predict a certain date in the next few years is challenging, and getting there depends on unifying methods. new technology compliance with the government”.

Fitzpatrick cited factors beyond the company’s control, such as the company’s upcoming technology compliance test with the CAA, among the reasons for the decision.

“We believe the industry as a whole will undergo some adjustment over time, and we have seen signs of colleagues acknowledging this,” he said in the letter.

Certification dates for other electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) startups have similarly slipped; Germany’s Lilium last year extended its deadline from 2024 to 2025. The company told investors in a letter this week that it was seeking raised 250 million dollars to help fund the development of its air taxi vehicle.

Fitzpatrick, who is best known in the UK for founding energy supplier Ovo Energy, told the Financial Times: “All aviation authorities are motivated but clearly they have a lot of work to do. , including building in-house skills to certify these vehicles.”

For anyone in the aerospace industry, he added, there is a “huge hurdle to overcome.” “Not to prove that the technology works, but to prove that it never fails.”

“The legal context is still being determined,” said Rami Abdel Aziz, director of aviation consulting firm IBA. “It will take time to establish comprehensive guidelines for eVTOLS.”

Despite regulatory uncertainty, several companies, including Germany’s Volocopter, are still aiming for certification as early as next year. Volocopter plans to be operational in time for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.

The recalibration of milestones highlights challenges that still need to be addressed before the promise of urban air mobility can be realized. The sector has attracted billions of dollars as investors buy into the dream of fast and affordable shipping in the skies, despite the lack of any certified vehicles.

Shares of air taxi startups that are listed as dedicated vehicles in 2021 have all fallen back as some of the initial investor enthusiasm evaporated amid the global economic backdrop. instability.

Vertical shares have fallen 80% since the company listed on Nasdaq in December, valuing the company at $386 million.

However, industry advocates emphasize that sentiment around the industry has shifted from the question of whether electric aviation will ever happen to a focus on the technological progress that has been achieved.

Vertical has partnered with companies including Rolls-Royce, Leonardo and Honeywell, to build its VX4, which will have a range of up to 100 miles, a cruise speed of 150 mph and a capacity of four passenger.

Vertical has flown full-sized prototypes since 2018. It completed its first manned test flight last year and plans a manned high-speed flight over the summer.

In March, the CAA granted Vertical so-called “design organization approval,” a crucial step required for type certification, the first step for the regulator to grant such approval to a manufacturer. eVTOL.

The company is funded through 2024, but expects to raise more capital this year. It had £104 million in cash and cash equivalents at the end of the first quarter, the letter said.


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