Following the announcement that Walle Mobility and Jaunt Air Mobility are to team up and work together on developing the first urban air mobility services in Italy, we spoke to Marco Pugliese, Chief Operating Officer at Walle Mobility, and Simon Briceno, Chief Commercial Officer at Jaunt Air Mobility, about the exciting news in more detail.
Q: Are you able to tell me more about this partnership between Walle Mobility and Jaunt Air Mobility. How did it come about?
Marco Pugliese: “At Walle, we’re going to be an advanced air mobility operator and were looking for an aircraft for our customers to fly on. We did a search and looked for something that could fit our needs and came across Jaunt. It was like love at first sight, because they have is an aircraft that fits our needs and roadmap.
“Many others in the industry are trying to make an eVTOL aircraft suitable for the advanced air mobility networks and it is going to take longer and longer to be ready; Jaunt has an aircraft which is already flying and its testbed has been for six years. So we were looking for something we could use as soon as possible since we want to start by 2025, 2026 at the latest.”
Simon Briceno: “When we started speaking to Walle, I first spoke with Marco and what really jumped out for me was the people and the level of knowledge and understanding of the technology. As Marco pointed out, he’s a pilot too so it’s nice to talk with someone who understands the aircraft.
“The aircraft is the focus of the partnership, but the things that stood out were that understanding of the benefits the aircraft can bring, the vision that Walle has for urban and advanced air mobility in Italy, and Italy itself from a geography standpoint. We see a lot of potential in this market and different types of markets.
“As well as the amount of work they’ve done with the public and local authorities, all of that is important to make sure it happens since it’s a new mode of transport. They’ve worked hard to develop the relationships that are going to be critical for this to happen.
“For us, it was a great opportunity that we definitely wanted to take advantage of.”
Q: Simon, am I right in thinking this kind of partnership is Jaunt’s first one in Europe?
SB: “This is the first official partnership we have from a service or operation standpoint in Europe. We have other partnerships relative to the aircraft development side but we feel that this was a fantastic opportunity. Italy is a great starting point in Europe and we envision it growing, but for now this really remains our focus and who knows where we will go from here.”
Q: Marco, are you able to tell us what your planned goals and objectives are for this partnership?
MP: “The target for us is 2025, 2026 at the latest because we have the Milan Cortina Olympic Games and we’d like to take the chance to introduce this service to the world. The road to get there is a long journey and we believe that we need Jaunt to stay close to us. We need a strong aircraft to be developed and made using the customer experience. We will surely help them introduce this aircraft to EASA and it shouldn’t be hard because they are already doing a great job with the FAA.
“It wasn’t just about joining with a company on the other side of the world. They already have some input in Europe and we strongly believe that the roadmap will be very long. If we can work together, it will be easier for us both. We are changing the world with this and need many hands to make it work.”
SB: “We feel very confident from the standpoint of our certification, development and certification process and that timeframe is realistic for this type of aircraft. Between now and then, as we work closely with Walle, we do have a full-scale, pre-production demonstrator that is being developed and will be ready in a couple of years.
“And then there are other test articles that we have to develop for certification purposes, so there is definitely an opportunity over the next five years to work together and do more specific demonstrations that are really critical from a public acceptance standpoint.
“The Access Skyways alliance we formed has a specific focus on infrastructure and we think that is one of the critical ecosystem elements that has to be looked at early. It takes time, whether in the US or Europe, and we need to work with Walle to identify the support they need from this alliance if any, to make sure all of that is in place for the type of operations they want to put into place.”
Q: Marco, we spoke about public acceptance in Italy in our recent podcast. What will this partnership be doing to address this crucial aspect of the ecosystem?
MP: For us, this is a critical point. Before we can make people fly with us, we have to make them understand the way they will fly. The work we are doing with Jaunt for example is that we are trying to design the cabin interior because at this moment in time, the customer cannot imagine how they will fly. We want the passengers to touch the aircraft they are going to fly in. As Simon said, in two years from now we might have an aircraft around here in Italy.
“Here at Walle, we are building a mock-up with real interior based on Jaunt’s ROSA aircraft dimensions, and want to show the public the real space that will be available on the aircraft when using our service. We want our customers to get used to it and with this partnership, we will be able to make the best mock-up which is very close to reality.
“The idea is to bring a roadshow with this mock-up aircraft, going round the cities and showing it to the public. This will be in Italy first and then we will move into Europe. At this moment, thanks to Jaunt’s capabilities we will be planning some routes – for example from Milan Malpensa [Airport] to the city centre, so we plan to show the mock-up in this city first and then move to Rome and Naples.
“Italy is surrounded by islands and if you want to reach one, it would take 1-2 hours by ferry. In a Jaunt aircraft, your journey will be just 15 minutes. Some people don’t think this is possible, because they just have the idea to jump onto a ferry for two hours. That’s fun, but advanced air mobility is faster, and that’s the point that will change people’s mind.”
Q: Simon, from a Jaunt perspective it must feel great to know you’re going to help introduce this new way of travel to those living in Italy and increasing the areas where people can travel via eVTOL aircraft?
SB: “Absolutely. We’re in an era of electric aviation and at the cusp of making it a reality. We really envision that the future is in the air. A lot of people have already brought into that, but it’s important to ensure that we don’t force this onto people.
“It’s important they accept it for the value it brings them in their everyday lives. If you put yourself in the minds of the general public who use public transportation services, there are some very key things they think about.
“Most people may think of the economics, how much their ticket price will be and assume the aircraft is safe. Safety is one that they may not think initially or assume because it’s a commercial aircraft and has been certified to the highest commercial aviation standards.
“There’s that trust factor and so one of Jaunt’s company missions is to promote the inherent safety of our design. That’s going to have to be demonstrated in many ways with the public and I think that engagement between now and its entry into service with the public is really important and once that clicks, it’s like cars and other modes of transportation. People are going to really use this service and opportunity to transform their everyday lives.
“We’re really saving them a tremendous amount of time, but we’re not there yet. We have to get to a point that we can get that buy-in.”
Q: Simon, what other services will Jaunt be helping Walle with as part of this partnership?
SB: “The aircraft itself is one thing, but there is a lot of aircraft supportability that has to happen. We are working very closely and going to be making an announcement soon on another Tier 1 aerospace supplier in simulation and flight training. That’s all important. These aircraft are initially going to be piloted. The aircraft will be electric for certain markets, and will require MRO and support. Those are things we are actively pursuing because we’re the vehicle provider.
“As you expand away from the aircraft and into the ecosystem, the reason we started Access Skyways – a partnership with five companies which are experts in their own domain specifically related to infrastructure, is because of how critical that is – not just from a vertiport standpoint, but an electrification, utility and energy provider standpoint as well.
“It’s a joint alliance of companies, with expertise in this domain, and services and capability that can be provided to Walle. At this point, we’re not really looking at that but will be covering a lot of those details as our partnership matures and we start to get deeper into the design and planning for operations. Those items will emerge and whether it’s Access Skyways or others that provide support, we’ll be ready to do that.”
Q: Marco, what does this partnership mean to you and the Walle Mobility team, considering the startup was only launched in early 2020?
MP: “For us, this is bringing us up. Thanks to Jaunt, we now have something we are working on and starting to demonstrate to potential investors. It’s a key change.
“We have to work together to change the world. Once we approach the vertiport design, we will come back to Jaunt and together with our joint networks, will build the best vertiport.
“That is the advantage to make this partnership soon, we did not want to wait. Jaunt has made the difference for us and we are very happy to have announced this partnership.”
Q: Simon, is there anything else you’d like to add?
SB: “We don’t want to get detailed right now, as we want to save a little bit for a future announcement. But we’re working side by side to get the ball rolling. All of these areas we mentioned – the aircraft, outside of the aircraft, public acceptance – there are still quite a lot of challenges.
“We’re excited and have been working since last year, but yesterday was our big reveal. That doesn’t change our pace, we’re continuing to be committed to each other.”