The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Blade Set To Expand Indian Charter Flight Network with Jaunt's Journey eVTOL Aircraft

Charter flight platform Blade Air Mobility is stepping up its plans to develop eVTOL air taxi services in the Indian subcontinent with a new agreement with eVTOL aircraft developer Jaunt Air Mobility. In a March 28 announcement, its Blade India joint venture with New Dehli-based investment group Hunch Ventures said that it intends to acquire at least 150 of Jaunt’s planned four-passenger Journey vehicles for its network by 2027.

Under the terms of a partnership, Blade India holds options to add a further 100 Journey aircraft. The company will work with Jaunt to plan for service entry, including arrangements for ground infrastructure, such as recharging stations.

Under the standard Blade business model, aircraft are owned and operated by partner companies, and Blade India says the eVTOL vehicles will be flown by "pre-vetted" lease operators.  During last week’s Helicopter Investor conference, Blade Air Mobility’s president and general counsel, Melissa Tomkiel, identified India as one of three key markets for air taxi and medical services that the group currently addresses with helicopters. The other two markets are the New York City metro area and the south of France.

Blade India launched services in November 2019, marketing helicopter flights in and around crowded cities such as Mumbai, Shirdi, Pune, and Bengaluru, as well as in the state of Goa. The five-aircraft fleet of Airbus H125 and Bell 206 light helicopters it currently uses appears to be leased directly to the company, which says it intends to replace existing rotorcraft with eVTOLs for short-haul routes.

Blade India operates leased helicopters.
Blade India currently uses leased helicopters for charter flights in crowded Indian cities and the state of Goa. (Image: Blade India)

Jaunt says it plans to use Blade India’s existing commercial operations as a proving ground to support the integration of eVTOL aircraft into Indian airspace. This approach mirrors Blade Air Mobility’s approach in the U.S. with eVTOL aircraft developers Beta Technologies and Eve Air Mobility. Other prospective customers include South Korea’s Mint Air, which in August 2022 agreed to buy 40 examples of the Journey, and Brazil-based rideshare platform Flapper.

Jaunt's eVTOL Combines Helicopter and Fixed-wing Technology

Jaunt is working to complete type certification for the Journey in 2027 under Transport Canada Part 529 requirements and then under the FAA’s Part 27 and 29 rules. The aircraft, which features both a fixed wing and a rotor, uses the company’s patented slow rotor compound technology, which reduces drag and vibration by lowering the speed of the main rotor to about 10 rpm during cruise flight. It is expected to have a maximum speed of 175 mph on flights of up to around 100 miles.

Jaunt, which is headquartered in Dallas and has a design and manufacturing hub in Montreal, is part of the Airo Group, which earlier this month agreed to merge with special purpose acquisition company Kernel Group Holdings. The group, which also includes Aspen Avionics and several drone operations and training businesses, aims to complete an initial public offering on New York’s Nasdaq market in the third quarter of this year.

“With its vast expanse and increasing congestion, India is one of the biggest markets in the world for advanced air mobility solutions,” commented Blade India managing director Amit Dutta. “With Blade’s first mover advantage in nurturing the urban air mobility ecosystem in India and Jaunt’s technical expertise, this partnership is well poised to pioneer the transition to electric and revolutionize the transportation system.”