Special Report: Surveying the eVTOL competitive landscape

The Air Current takes a closer look at the strategies and competitive positioning of 16 leading eVTOL developers.

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Since 2016, when Uber Elevate launched electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft into the public consciousness with the publication of its seminal white paper, eVTOL developers have generally been appraised on the basis of their technology. Empowered by the unprecedented flexibility of distributed electric propulsion, a multitude of hopefuls are pursuing radically different aircraft designs, each of which offers its own passionately debated set of advantages and drawbacks.

Now that multiple eVTOL developers appear to have technologically viable products, more attention is being paid to another question: whether they also have economically viable business models. Fear of missing out led many investors to withhold their skepticism on this point during the heady early days of 2021, when many eVTOL developers that went public via special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) made wildly optimistic projections of future revenues. With the era of free money now over, investor skepticism is back, and the sector has been undergoing a sometimes awkward process of recalibrating expectations.

Related: Special Report: The number at the center of an eVTOL safety debate

While technology is one determinant of economic viability, the ultimate success of any company also hinges on strategy. Except to the limited extent that it is currently being done with helicopters, urban air mobility is still a highly theoretical market, and any assumptions around it are necessarily speculative. Many eVTOL developers are still counting on being able to conjure that market into existence, but others are pursuing alternative use cases, and even the most committed UAM entrants have been lining up additional sources of revenue. The evolving business strategy of each aircraft developer has been influenced not only by the particulars of their technology, but also by their funding structure and the specific opportunities available to them.

On the heels of the 2023 Paris Air Show, The Air Current surveys the current landscape of the eVTOL sector, providing a framework for how to think about eVTOL developers and their competitive positioning that goes beyond a ranked list. In a separate 39-page PDF report that is included for Individual Business, TAC/Pro and corporate subscribers, and also available for purchase, we go deeper into the strategies of leading eVTOL developers, drawing on extensive recent interviews with key executives.

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