Vertical lift aircraft have been around for more than a century in the form of helicopters. But the $49 billion industry is facing an imminent threat.

About 200 companies are working on electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles, a new type of small passenger aircraft designed for transportation in congested urban environments.

“Helicopters are very expensive to operate for a number of reasons, but the most important reason is that they have multiple points of failure, which eVTOL aircraft do not,” said Michael Leskinen, President United Airlines Ventures, which has invested in startups in the space called Eve and Archer Aviation. “Electrification makes airplanes safer. Safer aircraft also become less expensive to maintain.”

They are not yet on the market, but in time they may become the air taxis of the future. Before they get there, manufacturers need certification from the Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory agencies. Some companies are optimistic about 2025 as the year to start work.

Watch the video to find out why these new planes have changed the way people travel.

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