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U.S. forms team to set strategy on flying air taxis

FILE PHOTO: Flying taxi company Archer Aviation unveils all-electric aircraft in Los Angeles

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration said Tuesday it has formed an interagency team to develop a national strategy relating to advanced air mobility efforts such as flying taxis.

Electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) have been touted as the future of urban air mobility. Low-altitude urban air mobility aircraft has drawn intense global interest, with numerous eVTOL companies going public.

The U.S. Transportation Department said the team includes NASA, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communications Commission.

The FAA earlier this month issued an "updated blueprint" for airspace and other changes to accommodate future air taxis. Last year, it issued a proposal to update its air carrier definition to add "powered-lift" operations to regulations covering other commercial operations like airlines, charters and air tours.

The FAA said that under the blueprint, air taxi operations will begin at a low rate, similar to helicopters, and using existing routes and infrastructure such as helipads and vertiports.

The FAA is separately developing a powered-lift operations rule for certifying pilots and operating requirements to fly eVTOLs. The agency expects to publish the proposal this summer.

Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen has said the agency does not expect the first eVTOL to begin commercial operations until late 2024 or early 2025.

Airlines and other companies are looking at developing transport services using battery-powered aircraft that can take off and land vertically to ferry travelers to airports or for short city trips, allowing them to beat traffic.

Last year, the FAA issued the airworthiness criteria that air taxi startup Joby Aviation will need to meet for its Model JAS4-1 eVTOL aircraft and Archer Aviation for its air taxi to be certified for use.

Delta Air Lines invested $60 million in Joby in a partnership that aims to offer passengers air taxi transport to and from airports in New York and Los Angeles within a few years.

(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Bernadette Baum)