Uber and Blade have a new helicopter competitor in the United States - and it's backed by one of the world's largest aerospace companies
- Airbus' Voom, an on-demand helicopter ride-hailing company, has launched in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- The company's CEO, Clément Monnet, explained the company's vision in an interview with Business Insider.
- Eventually, the service could run electric, flying robotaxis, and sees that helicopters are the starting point for that.
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On-demand helicopter flights are here, and competition in the space is heating up.Following Uber Copter's debut earlier this year (the airport connection service is now available to any Uber rider, not just power users), the space has begun a transition to what many investors see as a new wave of "urban air mobility" (UAM).
Voom, a consumer-facing helicopter charger service that's been active in Latin America for three years, launched this week in the San Francisco Bay Area, shuttling wealthy travelers between the region's airports, Silicon Valley, and Napa's wine country."We want to offer a better alternative to ground transportation to people living in an urban environment," Clément Monnet, the company's chief executive, told Business Insider in an interview.
Like Uber and its older competitor Blade, business travelers and their corporate credit cards are the first target for Voom as it launches in the US. Prices start at $245 for a flight from Oakland to San Jose and climb as high as $425 from San Francisco International Airport to Napa.Read more: I took a $120 Blade helicopter flight from midtown Manhattan to JFK Airport - here's what it was like"The key with Voom is that we have Airbus to understand how these markets behave," Monnet said, brushing off the intense competition from the bevy traditional helicopter chartering services.
Uber's launch in particular, he says, "is great because it validates the assumptions we made three years ago when we decided that the best way to make UAM a reality was to incorporate first with helicopter as prep for the arrival of EVToL (Electric, vertical takeoff and landing)."
Earlier this year, Airbus' other UAM subsidiary showed off its vision for a flying taxi. The "Vahana" is an all-electric, four-seat aircraft, and successfully completed 50 full-scale test flights, the company said.Voom declined to share ridership or revenue figures thus far, but Monnet said the company has shuttled "tens of thousands" of passengers in Mexico and Brazil so far. More cities are in the company's sights, he said, though any announcements are still under wraps.
"We want to make Voom the platform of reference for Urban Air," Monnet said. "Thanks to our experience working in previous markets, and leveraging Airbus' expertise to work with the best in class operators in the world so that we can safely integrate with any type of platform to offer mobility services to passengers."
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