For nearly two years, Delta Air Lines has been conspicuously absent from the urban air mobility bandwagon, with Chief Executive Ed Bastiantelling investors only that the company was “studying the space” as competitors United Airlines and American Airlines lined up their own deals with developers of electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.
Now, Delta is getting on board in a big way, announcing a $60 million equity investment in eVTOL developer Joby Aviation and plans to develop a premium home-to-airport service using Joby’s electric air taxis.
In an industry that is still another two years or more away from commercial service, Delta’s late arrival is not a major handicap. Indeed, a close review of filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission suggests that Delta has likely vaulted ahead of United and American in the UAM race, establishing a substantive agreement with a pioneering eVTOL developer that has an impressive head start on certification.
Yet, this meaningful commitment to the UAM sector also comes with a heightened awareness of its risks. The airline’s agreement with Joby implicitly acknowledges that eVTOL aircraft could be difficult to certify and expensive to insure — and that any serious accident could destroy public confidence in them.
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