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Boeing-backed start-up Wisk signs first deal to operate air taxis in the U.S.

Wisk Aero, a start-up backed by Boeing and Kitty Hawk, has finalized its first deal to operate autonomous air taxis in the U.S.

The company will own, operate and maintain up to 30 eVTOL aircraft that will be offered through the Blade urban air mobility network. The deployment of Wisk air taxis is contingent upon the Federal Aviation Administration certifying the aircraft for commercial operation.

“We have been focused on developing an aircraft and customer experience that is efficient, accessible and most importantly, safe,” Wisk CEO Gary Gysin said in a release announcing the deal. “The combination of our expertise as an autonomous eVTOL aircraft manufacturer and operator, with the operational expertise of Blade, will help usher in an even greater level of safety and service.”

For Blade, the Wisk partnership is the company’s latest move to add eVTOLs, electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, to its charter network. In mid-April, it struck a deal with Beta Technologies for the operation of 20 piloted eVTOLs starting in 2025.

Unlike the Beta Technologies aircraft, the Wisk eVTOLs are being designed to fly autonomously, carrying two passengers up to 25 miles when fully charged.

“We look forward to working with Wisk to help accelerate Blade’s transition from conventional rotorcraft to safe, quiet, emission-free electric vertical aircraft,” Rob Wiesenthal, CEO of Blade, said in a release announcing the deal.

Wisk, which builds autonomous eVTOLs, was formed in 2019 when Boeing agreed to combine some of its development work on eVTOLs with a division of Kitty Hawk, the firm started by Google co-founder Larry Page and Sebastian Thrun. In April, Wisk filed a federal lawsuit accusing Archer Aviation, which is also developing an eVTOL, of “brazen theft.”

In the complaint, Wisk accused Archer of stealing “intellectual property and confidential information.”

Archer denies the allegations and said, “We intend to defend ourselves vigorously.” Deloitte says passenger and cargo eVTOLs will be a $4 billion market by 2025 and $57 billion by 2035.

This article originally appeared on CNBC

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