A new entrant in the market for electric-powered air taxis is getting a boost from one of aviation’s oldest family names: Erik Lindbergh, the grandson of pioneering pilot Charles Lindbergh, is announcing the formation of a venture called VerdeGo Aero.
VerdeGo Aero is headquartered at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s MicaPlex incubator in Daytona, Fla., but the younger Lindbergh provides a strong Seattle-area connection. He’s lived on Bainbridge Island for decades, and serves on the board of directors for Raisbeck Aviation High School near Seattle’s Museum of Flight.
Lindbergh serves as president of VerdeGo, which is developing a hybrid-electric, vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft that can be flown autonomously or by a pilot.
Lots of other companies are working on similar vehicles, variously known as personal air vehicles or flying cars. The list includes Airbus’ Vahana venture, which is testing an air taxi in Oregon, as well as Uber and its aviation partners, Terrafugia and Kitty Hawk, China’s EHang, Switzerland’s Passenger Drone, Germany’s Volocopter and Lilium, Slovakia’s AeroMobil and Japan’s Cartivator Project.
Kirkland, Wash.-based Zunum Aero, meanwhile, is developing a new class of hybrid-electric airplanes for regional passenger service, with backing from the Boeing Co.
It’s too early to say how many of those ventures will bear fruit — or whether VerdeGo Aero will be among the winners. But in today’s announcement, Lindbergh said the “flying car” is a concept whose time has finally come.
“Our global economy has been stuck in a traffic jam for decades, but the technology is here to make the dream of ‘flying car’ transportation a reality,” he said. “Use your smartphone to book your Personal Air Taxi, and your trip to a verti-port across town will take minutes instead of hours. At VerdeGo Aero, we are building the first safe and efficient short-range vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for the millions of people stuck in traffic in cities around the world.”
The company said it was forming a customer council of aircraft operators to flesh out its plan for electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) air taxis.
Eric Bartsch, VerdeGo’s chief operating officer, said the goal is to create a service “with an aircraft that is safe, quiet and comfortable for passengers, while being profitable and reliable for local airlines operating fleets of eVTOL aircraft to create urban air travel networks.”
VerdeGo’s chief technology officer is Pat Anderson, director of the Eagle Flight Research Center at Embry-Riddle.
Lindbergh is an adventurer, naturalist and artist, but it’s his aerospace background that has brought him the most attention. In 1996, he helped launch the foundation now known as XPRIZE, which gave an early boost to the commercial spaceflight industry with a $10 million competition.
To raise the competition’s profile, Lindbergh retraced his grandfather’s epic 1927 solo flight from New York to Paris in 2002. And when SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize in 2004, Lindbergh was in on the celebration.
He’s still a member of the XPRIZE board of trustees, but over the past decade, Lindbergh has increasingly turned his focus to accelerating the development of the electric aircraft industry.
For years, the Lindbergh Foundation awarded its own prizes to recognize innovations in the field. Now Erik Lindbergh and his partners are aiming to take the prize in a commercial races that’s certain to heat up.