Long Beach Teams With Wisk Aero to Explore Flying Air Taxis

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Samson is also a proud member of the Transgender Journalists Association. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him

Wisk Aero
Image courtesy of Wisk Aero

Sign up for dot.LA’s daily newsletter for the latest news on Southern California’s tech, startup and venture capital scene.

The city of Long Beach is partnering with a startup developing electric, self-flying aircraft to explore the possibility of deploying air taxis that would bolster the city’s transit infrastructure.

Silicon Valley-based Wisk Aero and the Long Beach Economic Partnership have launched a working group involving local businesses, government officials and community leaders to examine the viability of air taxis in Long Beach. The working group is also partnering with California State University, Long Beach’s Office of Economic Research on an economic impact study that is slated for completion later this year.

Even if all goes to plan, it would likely take up to 10 years before Wisk Aero’s air taxis are up and running in Los Angeles County, Wisk spokesperson Chris Brown told dot.LA. Developing an airborne transportation system from scratch is a logistical challenge that would require infrastructure like vertiports, while there are also financial and city planning obstacles to overcome.

Image courtesy of Wisk Aero

Wisk claims its technology, however, already works. The Mountain View-based startup has completed 1,500 test flights of its unmanned electric aircraft (though each test flight is supervised by an air traffic controller) and is developing larger craft designed to carry more passengers. Initially a pet project of Google co-founder Larry Page, Wisk launched in 2019 as a joint venture between Page’s air mobility company Kitty Hawk and aerospace giant Boeing. Last month, Boeing invested an additional $450 million into the startup.

While Wisk would not disclose its total funding to date, Brown noted the steep costs associated with the venture. “The standard accepted stats around what it takes to bring a new aircraft to market is 10 years, $2 billion, and 10,000 people—and we’re going on 12 years now,” he said. Wisk also has yet to find and develop a large-scale manufacturing site, though Brown said such a facility will be located in the United States.

L.A. County is no stranger to short-range air travel for the wealthy, who have long used private helicopters and chartered planes to ferry around the region. While public air taxis would, in theory, help alleviate Long Beach’s congested road traffic, one question sure to arise during the working group process is whether a ride on Wisk’s aircraft would be affordable to the public.

“The target of the [air taxi] industry right now is to be about [the price of an] Uber Black, or a couple of times [the price of an] UberX,” according to Emilien Marchand, Wisk’s public policy lead and director of ecosystem partnerships.

Marchand said Wisk will likely go to market later than competitors like Joby Aviation, a Santa Cruz-based startup valued at $4.5 billion after it went public last year. Joby is targeting a 2024 launch for its electric air taxi fleet.

“We fully expect to be building this ecosystem with our future competitors,” Marchand said. “We've absolutely recognized that we will not be the first to market, and that's fine—but we will be first with an autonomous vehicle.”


Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.


Plus Capital Partner Amanda Groves on Celebrity Equity Investments

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+ Shift.com, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
PLUS Capital​’s Amanda Groves.
Courtesy of Amanda Groves.

On this episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, Amanda Groves talks about how PLUS Capital advises celebrity investors and why more high-profile individuals are choosing to invest instead of endorse.

As a partner at PLUS, Groves works with over 70 artists and athletes, helping to guide their investment strategies. PLUS advises their talent roster to combine their financial capital with their social capital and focus on five investment areas: the future of work, future of education, health and wellness, the conscious consumer and sustainability.

Read more Show less

Rivian Stock Roller Coaster Continues as Amazon Van Delivery Faces Delays

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

Rivian Stock Roller Coaster Continues as Amazon Van Delivery Faces Delays
Courtesy of Rivian.

Rivian’s stock lost 7% yesterday on the back of news that the company could face delays in fulfilling Amazon’s order for a fleet of electric delivery vans due to legal issues with a supplier. The electric vehicle maker is suing Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG) over a pricing dispute related to the seats that the supplier promised, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Read more Show less