When you look outside the specialised trade media, most eVTOL news seems dominated by a small number of names. In particular, by Archer, Joby and Volocopter, and to a lesser extent by Lilium, Vertical Aerospace, Wisk and Eve.
But there are others who, despite not having the same share of voice, believe that their vision and ambition match or even surpass the better-known industry players.
One is Montreal and Dallas-based Jaunt Air Mobility. Owned by the Airo Group, like most other eVTOL companies, it is developing a four-passenger aircraft that it aims to have in the skies by 2027.
We caught up with Jaunt to hear more about their plans.
The Jaunt Journey - prototype to fly by 2024
Jaunt's four-seater will be called the Jaunt Journey. The aircraft can also carry a palletized load by removing the four passenger seats. The maximum range will be 80 miles / 129 kilometres, which is obviously enough for commuter, very short regional and airport transfer routes.
Chief Communications Officer Nancy Richardson told us that Jaunt has so far flown a technology demonstrator, which proves the patented 'slow rotor technology' of the aircraft. The production aircraft is currently being designed, and the prototype will be flying in 2024.
Use cases for the aircraft are similar to what we've heard from other eVTOL companies, namely "changing the way we commute", cargo, corporate transportation, law enforcement and Medevac.
Jaunt also sees military as well as commercial uses for the Journey, with Jaunt being one of eleven companies selected by the US Air Force for its high-speed eVTOL challenge.
Image credit: Jaunt Air Mobility
Agreement with Fly Blade India
Several companies have so far signed letters of intent or MOUs with Jaunt. This includes South Korea’s Minit Air, which signalled an intent to operate 40 Jaunt Journey aircraft, and technology company Flapper, which wants to operate the Jaunt Journey in several Latin American cities, including Mexico City, Santiago de Chile, Bogota, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro.
The most interesting collaboration however was the one announced earlier this week between Jaunt and Fly Blade India (BLADE), which is an urban air mobility company that right now operates helicopters in major Indian cities.
From 2027 the intention is to replace those with eVTOLs, with a non-binding agreement having been signed for 150 Jaunt Aircraft with the option of 100 more.
There is clear potential for Jaunt’s aircraft to rise above congested traffic in major urban centres. For example, a road-based journey from Mumbai’s airport to the city centre can take an hour or more.
In 2022, Jaunt additionally said that it would be manufacturing its eVTOLs in India by the end of the decade to take advantage of the world’s third biggest aviation market.
Will Jaunt Air Mobility survive the shake-out?
On the surface, these announcements are impressive. But they are by and large non-binding without cash having been paid upfront as was the case with Joby and Delta, Archer and United and American and Vertical Aerospace.
This comes as former Wisk CEO Gary Gysin said that 2023 would see a “shake out” in the eVTOL space. One reason for that is the enormous up-front cost needed to produce a new aircraft.
At the 2022 Farnborough Air Show, we also heard Gary Gysin say that a new aircraft such as the one Wisk is building, would require a $2 billion start-to-finish investment.
Why does Jaunt believe it is one of the ones to make it through to the other end?
Here, Jaunt gave us a quote from Joe Burns, CEO of AIRO Group Holdings (Jaunt’s Parent Company), who said:
“As a middle market holding company, we have the advantage of leveraging multiple aerospace and defence markets, some already producing revenue, therefore providing a more robust investment platform as the air taxi market emerges.”
Nancy Richardson additionally told us that “Jaunt is taking a more traditional aerospace development approach, where key suppliers are participating and investing in aircraft development. The Canadian Government is very supportive of aerospace development programmes and supports vital initiatives towards green transportation systems.”
Our Take on Jaunt Air Mobility
Whenever we post about the claims made by eVTOL companies, we get a little bit of scepticism in response, questioning whether the reality in 2028 or 2029 will really match the grand vision that’s being painted now.
The honest answer is, only time will tell. Even though some urban areas (one example, Orlando in Florida) seem more enthusiastic about having an eVTOL network than others, the reality is these aircraft are not yet flying in our skies.
Where we do agree is with Gary Gysin’s assessment that few of the 100+ companies in the eVTOL space will emerge at the other end with working aircraft and paying customers.
Jaunt’s focus on the Indian market, and also areas such as Latin America and South Korea, makes sense. The Indian market in particular has enormous potential.
But the key surely will need to be to convert some of those LOIs into firm orders. Not only for cash reasons, but to publicly show definite intent that goes beyond interest. This for example is something Lilium was actively trying to do at the end of 2022 when it signalled that it would attempt to secure deposits from companies that said they would buy its aircraft.