(Photo Credit: Volocopter)
Volocopter, a German start-up pioneering in urban air mobility, will be testing its flying taxis in Singapore for the first time in 2019.
Announced recently at the Summit of Urban Mobility in Paris, German start-up Volocopter will be testing its electric air taxis in 2019. The tests will begin in the second half of 2019, and have support from Ministry of Transport (MOT), Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), and the Economic Development Board (EDB).
Called the “electric-vertical-takeoff-and-landing” (eVTOL), it is powered by 18 electric rotors running on high-capacity batteries. The emission-free aircraft looks like a helicopter and can take off and land vertically, thus saving space. Based off drone technology, the pilotless aircraft can transport a maximum of two people for 30 kilometres.
Volocopter is developing its eVTOL as pilotless air taxis to ferry people around cities. Its major investors include Daimler, an automotive company and Intel, a tech company. The eVTOL’s navigation system is made with Intel’s products, the Falcon 8+ commercial drone flight control and sensor technology.
The eVTOL is highly stable and is designed for inner city trips. During flight, it is quiet enough that it won’t be heard flying at 100 metres over a typical city with its noises. It is also able to manoeuvre smoothly around skyscrapers.
In a press release, Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter said that “we are getting ready to start implementing the first fixed routes in cities”.
The flight tests next year are meant to validate and verify the ability of the eVTOL for operation in Singapore’s city environment. Volocopter and CAAS will work together to figure out the parameters of the tests and to ensure safety requirements are met.
“There is potential for air taxis, or eVTOLs, to transform mobility and logistics in urban cities. Volocopter is at the forefront of such new and innovative technology in the aviation industry. CAAS is pleased to work together with Volocopter to study the technical capabilities and develop appropriate operational guidelines to facilitate such trials in Singapore,” said Mr. Ho Yuen Sang, Director of Aviation Industry at CAAS.
In addition to the tests, the German start-up will be setting up a team to support its expansion plans. The company will be hiring engineers, product designers, real-estate developers and mobility providers. It will also look for businesses to partner with to help provide its service in Singapore.
"Volocopter's decision to set up a local product design and engineering team in Singapore is a testament to Singapore’s aerospace engineering talent, as well as our prime position for industry players. We are excited to welcome Volocopter to Singapore and look forward to our future partnerships,” said Mr. Tan Kong Hwee, Executive Director of EDB.
Mr Reuter added, “Singapore is a logical partner: The city is a true pioneer in technology and city development. We are confident this is another exciting step to make air taxi services a reality.”
By working with real-estate developers and mobility providers that can provide infrastructure, Volocopter aims to build rooftop landing pads. These “Voloports” will be where eVTOLs can land and drop off passengers.
A representative for Volocopter told Avionics International that, “for example, a big shopping mall complex that would like to add a Volocopter-hub on top of their mall or a big business that has its offices in a skyscraper and wants to add a Voloport for their employees to fly directly to work — Mobility providers could be anything from a maps provider to telecommunications provider”.
Currently, Volocopter has a preliminary permit they obtained in 2016 to fly their vehicles in Germany. Thus, they are flown regularly and have done multiple public flights there. Right now, they are currently cooperating with the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) to obtain a full licence.
In September last year, Volocopter performed a public unmanned test flight in Dubai. There, they partnered with the Roads and Transport Authority of Dubai in its goal to implement air taxis as part of the country’s public transportation.
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