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Wed, Oct 05, 2022

Wisk Aero Unveils its Sixth-Generation eVTOL

The Shape of Things to Come

Wisk Aero is a Mountain View, California, aerospace concern about the business of developing self-flying electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft with which the company hopes to pioneer the autonomous air-taxi industry.

The company’s beginnings trace back to 2010 and an entity called Zee Aero which was founded with backing from Google co-founder Larry Page. In 2017, Zee Aero merged with Kitty Hawk, a manufacturer of ultralight VTOL aircraft. In 2018, Kitty Hawk rebranded Zee Aero as Cora.

On 25 June 2019, Kitty Hawk partnered with Boeing with an eye toward combining Cora’s innovations with Boeing’s scale and aerospace expertise. Six-months later, Cora was rebranded and spun off as a separate company—Wisk Aero, and remanded to the managerial auspices of CEO Gary Gysin.

In January 2022, Wisk Aero announced a $450-million investment by Boeing to further develop its pilot-less air-taxi concept. Boeing’s stated goal at the time was to have Wisk's sixth-generation passenger eVTOL be the first autonomous passenger-carrying vehicle to be certified in the United States.

On 3 October 2022, Wisk unveiled its sixth-generation eVTOL to considerable fanfare. Speaking at the event, CEO Gary Gysin asserted:  “In 2010, we set out to find a way to skip traffic and get to our destination faster. That inspiration evolved into a mission to deliver safe, everyday flight for everyone. Over the past 12 years, we’ve pursued that mission through the development of five different generations of full-scale aircraft. Our 6th Generation aircraft is the culmination of years of hard work from our industry-leading team, learnings from our previous generations of aircraft, commitment from our investors, and the evolution and advancement of technology.”

Wisk’s sixth-generation aircraft is a captivating beastie comprising an elegant syncretism of proven and inchoate technologies cleverly cobbled together in a machine at once familiar and exotic. The all-electric VTOL attains and sustains flight by way of the lift + lift/cruise scheme, in which its twelve propellers articulate to provide both vertical and horizontal thrust.

Once airborne, the vessel transitions to forward, wing-borne, aerodynamic flight,  with its six, five-blade, forward, tractor propellers providing thrust, and its six, four-blade, aft propellers locking into a stationary, horizontal configuration in which the planes of the propellers’ disks lie parallel to the aircraft’s longitudinal axis.

Excepting a preponderance of under-wing booms and propeller assemblies, the architecture of Wisk’s sixth-generation eVTOL is surprisingly conventional—comprising a single, fifty-foot, high-aspect-ratio, high-mounted main-wing and a  fuselage that bears a passing resemblance to that of a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter fitted out with a conventional empennage in place of a tail-rotor. A forward baggage compartment—or frunk—is located in the vessel’s nose.

What Wisk’s air-taxi achieves within the contexts of vision and innovation it concedes in performance. The four-passenger, pilotless contraption has an advertised cruise speed of 110-120-knots, and a cruise altitude of 2,500 to 4,000-feet AGL. Wisk claims the vehicle manages a range of ninety-miles on a 15-minute battery-charge.

Passengers are apt to find the cabin and flight-experience of Wisk’s eVTOL familiar, comfortable, and evocative of modern automobile standards. The cabin’s interior features excellent visibility, a spacious layout, ample storage, and amenities such as Wi-Fi and gadget charging stations. In designing its sixth-generation cabin, Wisk emulated the automotive convention of predicating seat, doors, and headspace dimensions on 5th percentile female to 95th percentile male mannequins—thereby rendering its air-taxi accessible to a broader passenger demographic. What’s more, the aircraft is accessible to those with disabilities.

Passenger situational awareness—course and trip progress, advisories of upcoming changes in aircraft attitude and altitude—is facilitated by individual, LCD consoles. Subject consoles also provide on-demand, voice or text-message access to the ground personnel overseeing the air-taxi’s autonomous functions.

Safety of flight is accommodated by Wisk’s leveraging of the same proven technology that accounts for more than 93% of automated in-flight functions on today's commercial aircraft. The sixth-generation eVTOL utilizes sophisticated detect and avoid systems and logic-driven, procedural-based, decision-making software that provides reliable, deterministic outcomes. Notwithstanding the robustness and redundancy of its autonomous capabilities, Wisk’s air-taxis are monitored in perpetuity by multi-vehicle supervisors that provide human oversight of every flight and have the ability to intervene if necessary.

With a target per-passenger-mile price of three-dollars, Wisk’s 6th Generation aircraft is designed to democratize flight—at least to such an extent that contemporary technological and economic constraints allow.

FMI: www.wisk.aero

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