Germany’s Volocopter today unveiled the design for VoloCity, its first eVTOL aircraft to enter series production. The two-seat multicopter will be certified under the new SC-VTOL rules announced by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in July and the manufacturer has said that it could take between two and five years to achieve type certification and service entry.
Volocopter intends to operate VoloCity aircraft itself in a new air-taxi model based on a flight-booking app that it is developing. The aircraft will be operated from ground facilities called VoloPorts. Working with UK-based Skyports, it is developing the first of these in Singapore, where it intends to conduct the first public VoloCity flight during the fourth quarter.
VoloCity is intended for short flights within largely urban areas, with a range of just 22 miles (35 km) and a cruise speed of 69 mph (110 km/h). Initially, flights will be piloted, but eventually Volocopter intends to introduce autonomous operations that would allow two passengers (and their baggage) to be carried. The company said that while the SC-VTOL rules can cover autonomous operations, it has decided not to set a firm timeline for making this transition. In September 2017, it demonstrated autonomous operations in Dubai with an earlier prototype.
According to Volocopter, it is now in talks with several cities around the world to discuss proposals to start eVTOL on-demand air-taxi services. The company, which started developing the aircraft in 2011, has no intention of selling VoloCity directly to individuals or other operators.
VoloCity features design changes developed after more than 1,000 flight tests on earlier prototypes, including the 2X, which has been the focus of its engineering team since 2016. New features include further refinements to the aerodynamic design of the beams that house the aircraft’s 18 rotors and a new stabilizer to increase lift and stability in flight. The new model also takes account of feedback gathered from several hundred prospective customers and the safety standards in the new SC-VTOL rules, including what the company said is a high level of redundancy in critical systems.
“With the VoloCity we will open the first commercial routes and bring urban air mobility to life,” said Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter.
In addition to the planned flight trials in Singapore, Volocopter is working with Frankfurt International Airport operator Fraport in Germany to develop passenger handling and ground procedures that meet international regulations.