After more than a decade of keeping its plans close to its chest, Wisk Aero finally went public in October 2022 with the design for its planned four-passenger eVTOL air taxi that will operate autonomously. Privately-owned Kitty Hawk has been working on the Cora eVTOL design since December 2011, but this turns out to have been purely a demonstrator model intended to prove the core technology.
On June 25, 2019, the company announced a strategic partnership with Boeing NeXt around the program. Then in December 2019, this situation became clearer when Boeing and Kitty Hawk announced the formation of a new joint venture called Wisk to solidify their partnership. It appears that Boeing is the majority shareholder in the new company, but neither party will confirm details the ownership structure. It will focus entirely on developing the two-seat Cora, which is expected to fly on routes up to around 60 miles and at speeds of approximately 112 mph.
To date, Kitty Hawk has published very few details about the aircraft's projected performance and specifications. After starting test flights in 2017, as off May 7, 2020, it has conducted more than 1,200 test flights with four prototypes, mainly in New Zealand where Wisk has a subsidiary company. No timeline for type certification has been published. Following some disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Wisk hoped to resume test flights by the end of May.
In October 2019, the New Zealand government announced an Airspace Integration Trial to demonstrate how unmanned aircraft can be safely operated in unmanned airspace and it has now selected Wisk as the first industry partner for this program. The program is being managed by the country’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment in conjunction with the CAA and the Ministry of Transport.
On February 4, 2020, the New Zealand government and Wisk signed a memorandum of understanding for Cora to conduct autonomous passenger-carrying trial flights in the Canterbury region. Officials have not yet said when the first passenger-carrying flights will be made or how passengers will be chosen. However, it is contingent on the Cora completing type certification by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority.
Wisk New Zealand (formerly Zephyr Airworks) is working with the country’s Ngai Tahu Maori tribe to support science and technology education initiatives as part of a wider community engagement process. The company also is partnered with flag-carrier Air New Zealand.
On June 10, 2020, Wisk said it had resumed flight testing in New Zealand and California following disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. As of November 2020, the four prototype aircraft had logged a total of just over 1,400 test flights. In the next phase of flight testing, the company's engineering team will focus on issues such as incorporating lightning strike protection.
FAA officials have had discussions with their counterparts at the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand to agree on procedures that will allow them to observe certification work on the Cora aircraft and to share data.
With the FAA's version 1.0 release of their UAM Concept of Operations (ConOps), Wisk stated that they intend to play a part, along with the many other UAM-oriented companies who are impacted, on reviewing the preliminary plan from the FAA to eventually see it further refined. The early July ConOps marks a step forward for the UAM industry in eventually integrating their services into the U.S. airspace system.
On November 16, 2020, the company announced its addition to NASA's Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign. Wisk, along with 18 other UAM companies, will prepare for the first phase of NASA's program dubbed the "Grand Challenge" trials in 2022, which aim to assess operational safety scenarios (primarily collision avoidance and flight path management) of future air mobility services. NASA hopes to also address various barriers related to the development and certification of automated aviation standards.
In late March 2021, Wisk set the second half of 2021 to begin “transport trials” for the Cora in New Zealand. The trials, which are supported by the government’s Airspace Integration Trial Programme, include demonstration flights which aim to safely evaluate the role of unmanned aircrafts in existing airspace.
In January 2022, Boeing invested $450 million into Wisk Aero eVTOL. The funding is set to help certify Wisk’s sixth-generation eVTOL which is set to replace the fifth-generation Cora prototype.
In February 2022, Wisk, which intends to offer air taxi services with its Cora eVTOL design, partnered with the city of Long Beach, California, to include advanced air mobility in the city’s future public transportation.
In April 2022, ground infrastructure and drone operations company Skyports began a partnership with Wisk to further pursue its plans for autonomous eVTOL air transport services.
Following the unveiling of the sixth-generation eVTOL design in October 2022, Wisk Aero subsequently announced that Boeing executive Brian Yutko as the successor to Gary Gysin as the company's CEO.