The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

With Astro Acquisition Looming, Horizon Says Investors Still Bullish On eVTOL Air Taxis

A new survey of private equity and venture capital investors suggests strengthening consensus around recent bullish projections over the size of the eVTOL aircraft passenger transportation sector. Horizon Aircraft, a Canadian startup developing the Cavorite X5 model, last month interviewed 100 investment professionals and 67 percent indicated that they expected there to be between 160,000 and 200,000 eVTOL air taxis in service worldwide by 2050.

The 160,000 figure tallies with the projection made by air transportation consultancy Roland Berger in its October 2020 report. A further 17 percent of those interviewed last month for Horizon by market research group Pure Profile said the number of eVTOL air taxis could be more than 200,000 by the middle of this century, while 13 percent predicted there will be fewer than 160,000 aircraft and 3 percent said they couldn’t make a prediction.

Survey results also show that 36 percent of respondents agree with an estimate that the urban air mobility market will generate annual revenues of around $90 billion. Almost half the sample—46 percent—estimated that the figure will be higher, while 15 percent said it will be lower.

In February 2021, Astro Aerospace announced plans both to acquire Horizon and pursue an initial public offering on New York’s Nasdaq market. With support from middle-market investment bank Kingswood Capital Markets, Astro is looking to upload to Nasdaq from its current OTC Markets listing during the second quarter of this year.

According to Texas-based Astro, it is working on a pair of small multicopter eVTOL vehicles called the Elroy and the Alta. However, development work seems to have been progressing very slowly since the company conducted a demonstration flight with an earlier version of the Elroy in 2018.

In its third-quarter 2020 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Astro said design and development work for the aircraft has been led by its partner, Infly Technology Ltd. The filing said a prototype of the Alta is expected to start flight tests before the end of the second quarter of 2021.

Astro’s current owner, MAAB, acquired an earlier iteration of the company called CPSM from the owners of a swimming pool company based in Florida. The company’s investors deck released in February claimed a current valuation of $65 million and claimed a projected median valuation of $5.2 billion, which it said meant that “Astro is more than 80 times undervalued compared against market leaders.” As of April 25, Astro’s over-the-counter (OTC) share price stood at $3.31, implying a current market capitalization of just $28 million, according to OTC Markets.

Three of the competitors mentioned in the deck—Joby, Archer, and Lilium—are currently pursuing IPO mergers with special purpose acquisition companies with projected valuations, respectively of $6.6 billion, $2.7 billion, and $3.3 billion. All three of these startups have made far more progress in developing eVTOL aircraft that they expect to be ready to start commercial operations in 2024.

In its April 14 press release about the new investors’ survey, Horizon said its acquisition by Astro is expected to close on or before the beginning of the second quarter. In recent weeks, the company has conducted a sustained public relations campaign in which it has argued that unspecified rival eVTOL aircraft are technically deficient and will either be uninsurable or too costly to operate.