Kenya Airways(KQ) has signed a deal that will see it buy 40 flying taxis from two Brazilian firms as part of the airline’s diversification through its new subsidiary Fahari Aviation.
The carrier said on Tuesday it had signed a letter of intent (LOI) with EVE UAM, LLC, a subsidiary of Eve Holding, Inc. (“Eve”) and a carve-out of Embraer S.A. (“Embraer") which includes joint studies through a working group to develop and scale the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market.
The LOI also covers a business model for cargo drone operations in Kenya and the national carrier expects to start deliveries by 2026.
The flying taxis, known in technical terms as the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, is a new technology that uses electricity to hover, take off, and land vertically, making it easier to move within cities while avoiding traffic jams.
"The journey to realise the dream of eVTOL vehicles in Kenya is on course and the partnership with EVE UAM is a key achievement for us as part of the strategy to adopt new technologies as a growth strategy for the sustainable development of Africa,” Kenya Airways chief executive Allan Kilavuka said on Tuesday.
He explained that the airline is yet to enter into any financial contract until the studies are complete.
"It is a LOI but we need to do the joint study first so no financial commitment for now. We have not acquired the vehicles it is an LOI," he said.
The electric aircraft is emerging as the solution to navigating busy urban area transportation and has attracted global airlines in the race to secure new revenue streams.
Many aircraft concepts are being mobilised for urban taxi services, parcel delivery, medical assistance and recreation with minimal military use.
Vertical Aerospace announced pre-orders for 1,000 aircraft in June 2021, including from American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and planes lessor, Avalon Holdings.
The Embraer spinoff Eve Urban Air Mobility Solutions has signed contracts with 17 companies for 1,735 orders of its aircraft, valued at $5 billion (Sh568 billion) as of January 2022.
Eve has also signed a deal with Kenya Airways to develop operational models for urban air mobility through Fahari Aviation.
Under the agreement, Eve will work with Fahari to establish its mobility network and the required urban air traffic management procedures and operating environment.
Meanwhile, Fahari will support Eve’s aircraft and product development process, which will help guide the integration of Kenya Airways.