German firm Volocopter said Tuesday it will conduct the test flights in Singapore in the second half of next year with the support of the government. Resembling a helicopter, Volocopter’s electric air taxis take off and land vertically. They are based on drone technology and can fly two people for around 30 kilometers (19 miles), the firm said in a statement.
Volocopter is a German aircraft manufacturer based in Bruchsal and founded by Alexander Zosel and Stephan Wolf. The company specializes in the design of electric multirotor helicopters in the form of ready-to-fly aircraft, designed for air taxi use. The company first flew the Volocopter VC1 and Volocopter VC2 technology demonstrators, followed by the two-seat Volocopter VC200 prototype. The VC1 was first flown on 21 October 2011.
Volocopter holds a preliminary permit to fly from the German authorities since 2016 and is cooperating with the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) to receive a full commercial license. They fly regularly in Germany and have performed numerous public flights, according to the company.
Volocopter’s co-founder, Alexander Zosel, told Reuters that the company is working with Singapore regulators to conduct a public test flight in the coming months, but that Germany and Dubai were also potential markets willing to consider its air taxis.
In Singapore, the company is looking at the role that air taxis could play in the city-state’s business district of Marina Bay and its popular resort island of Sentosa.
Already backed by heavy hitters such as Daimler, Intel, and Geely, Volocopter is targeting a planned commercial rollout of its electric air taxis in the next two to three years.
The drone-like taxis are powered by 18 rotors and the company says it has clocked over 1,000 test flights – some piloted by humans and others flown by remote control or autonomously on a pre-determined route.
Its aircraft can take off and land vertically, flown either automatically or by a pilot, with a beta design that can fly two people and their luggage for distances approaching 30 kilometers. Volocopter said it hopes to cover high-traffic routes in major cities, such as between airports to city centers, at a speed of up to 110km per hour.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, the company is still looking for more financial backers. The company has open funding round that it plans to close in January 2020, and it has already raised €85 million to date.
The latest funding it accrued was in a €50 million (AU$81 million) tranche led by Chinese carmaker Geely earlier this year.
Millions of commuters in the metropolitan cities have to contend with chronic gridlock every day, sparking a race to develop new ways to avoid the snarl-ups. While the developed city-state of Singapore does not suffer major congestion, it is seen as a perfect test-bed for new technologies due to its compact size and openness to innovation.