If flying taxis and skyports sound like something from Bladerunner or Star Wars to you, then think again. A Korean start-up has raised $9 million in seed-funding to develop a hybrid air taxi that could transport up to seven passengers a maximum range of 500 km in under an hour and a half.
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The company, Plana, confirmed the success of its funding round last week. A half-scale demonstration model eVTOL (vertical take-off and landing vehicle) is due next year, with first flights slated for early 2024, while full-scale prototyping is planned for 2025, and production for 2028.
Using full-tilt prop rotors and a stabilising and lift-enhancing ‘canard’ design (a forewing like that used on Eurofighter Typhoons) the air taxi resembles a hexacopter drone. It will, of course, be piloted – at speeds of up to 350 kmh.
Three days ago, CPO, Jinmo Lee announced the company has signed up with Utah-based Electric Power Systems to provide the air taxi’s battery technology. “We appreciate Schmidt, DSC Investment, Shinhan Asset Management, FuturePlay, Dt&Investment, Industrial Bank of Korea, Kibo Technology Fund, and Xenoholdings Asia for their trust in Plana’s vision and potential to be grown up as a leading global AAM market player”, he said.
Yet to seek approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration, Plana is trailing other eVTOL business in that respect. However, this could be part of a strategy to slipstream through the bureaucratic pain of certification by letting others take the headwinds.
On the other hand, the certification process is hugely expensive and with just $9 million raised, covering only the initial phases of prototype development, Plana’s 40 person team will need additional funding moving forward. Seeking investors will only become more difficult once the field is littered with other companies who have failed.