A sports car in the sky? Boeing and Porsche target urban air mobility market

Concept for premium air mobility vehicle
Boeing and Porsche will asses the market for a premium urban air mobility vehicle. (Boeing Illustration)

Boeing and Porsche say they’ve signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the premium air mobility market and the potential for extending urban traffic into airspace. In short, they’re thinking about offering a flying sports car.

Both companies made clear that their joint efforts are only in the concept phase.

“Porsche is looking to enhance its scope as a sports car manufacturer by becoming a leading brand for premium mobility. In the longer term, this could mean moving into the third dimension of travel,” Detlev von Platen, member of the executive board for sales and marketing at Porsche AG in Germany, said today in a news release. “We are combining the strengths of two leading global companies to address a potential key market segment of the future.”

The collaboration serves as a sign that Boeing is serious about getting involved in the urban air mobility market, whether you call the vehicles that serve that market flying cars, air taxis or personal electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicles (known as eVTOLs for short).

Porsche and Boeing say they’ll create an international team to analyze the market potential and possible use cases for premium air mobility vehicles. What’s more, Porsche will work with Boeing and its subsidiary, Aurora Flight Sciences, to develop an eVTOL concept. An engineering team that also includes two of Porsche’s subsidiaries, Porsche Engineering Services GmbH and Studio F.A. Porsche, will implement and test a prototype.

Boeing Porsche concept
Concept art shows a premium eVTOL vehicle in an urban setting. (Boeing / Porsche Illustration)

“This collaboration builds on our efforts to develop a safe and efficient new mobility ecosystem, and provides an opportunity to investigate the development of a premium urban air mobility vehicle with a leading automotive brand,” said Steve Nordlund, vice president and general manager of Boeing NeXt. “Porsche and Boeing together bring precision engineering, style and innovation to accelerate urban air mobility worldwide.”

Boeing NeXt was created a year ago to bring together all of Boeing’s initiatives in the field of urban air mobility, ranging from autonomous flight and advanced propulsion to the traffic management infrastructure that’ll be needed for a next-generation airspace ecosystem.

Under the Boeing NeXt aegis, the aircraft manufacturer and its partners and subsidiaries are working on a number of projects, including a passenger air vehicle that’s likely to play a role in the Porsche collaboration as well as Uber’s plans for air mobility services. Boeing and Texas-based SparkCognition, meanwhile, have established a joint venture called SkyGrid to develop a traffic management software platform for accommodating autonomous as well as piloted aircraft.

Last year, a study by Porsche Consulting concluded that urban air mobility solutions could serve some passenger needs more quickly, efficiently and cheaply than current conventional means of terrestrial transport — and predicted that the market for such solutions would pick up speed after 2025. By 2035, an estimated 23,000 passenger drones could be servicing a market worth $32 billion, the study said.

Porsche isn’t the only automaker with plans to capitalize on the flying-car market: Audi has teamed up with Boeing’s usual rival, Airbus, to develop eVTOL vehicles as well as air taxi services.

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