Logistics group DB Schenker is investing €87 million ($113 million) in eVTOL aircraft developer Volocopter as part of its Series C funding round. The move, announced on February 21, takes the total raised by the German company to €122 million ($159 million).
Volocopter is developing the two-seat, autonomously operated VoloCity aircraft, which it says will complete type certification by the end of 2022 or early in 2023. The company intends to operate aircraft itself on urban routes of up around 22 miles and at speeds of up to 69 mph. It is also developing a cargo-carrying version called the VoloDrone.
Other new investors include Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Group, MS&AD Ventures, and Translink Capital (including Japan Airlines and Sompo Japan Insurance). Existing investor Lukasz Gadowski and European venture capital group Btov also supported the current funding round.
With the closing of the Series C funding round, Volocopter announced the appointment of several new members to its advisory board. These include DB Schenker CEO Jochen Thewes; Yifan Li, vice president of Geely Holding Group Company; former Daimler group CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche; and, CAS Software founder Martin Hubschneider. Chinese automotive group Geely and its German subsidiary Daimler invested in the Series A funding round.
“We are convinced that the Volocopter technology has the potential to bring transport logistics to the next dimension for our customers,” commented Thewes. “DB Schenker has already tested autonomous and electrical vehicles in several innovation projects and in actual operations. By integrating the VoloDrone into our supply chain of the future we will be able to serve our clients’ demand for fast, remote, emission-neutral deliveries.”
On February 18, Volocopter announced it is partnering with consumer app provider Grab is to conduct a joint feasibility study into starting urban air mobility services in Southeast Asia’s largest cities. The study, which is due to be complete within the next few months, will identify the most suitable cities and routes for launching air taxi services and explore prospects for conducting flight trials. It may lead to wider cooperation to launch urban air mobility services.
Singapore-based Grab’s consumer app provides ground-based taxi rides and deliveries of food and packages, as well as digital payments and other financial services. Since it launched in 2012, the app has provided more than four billion rides and is now offers services in 339 cities across Southeast Asia.
A spokeswoman for Volocopter told AIN that it is too early to say whether the Grab app will eventually be used to market its air taxi services and that the company is developing its own app too. Volocopter also has not ruled out partnerships with other app providers, such as Uber. "Generally speaking, it is our vision to be customer-facing and own as many customer touchpoints as possible," the company said. "We are open to all kinds of cooperation. Our ultimate goal is to provide the best user experience and greatest value-add in our customers' lives. This will guide our decisions on potential future partnerships."
“As a super app that operates across 339 cities in Southeast Asia, Grab has gathered traffic patterns and customer insights in the region that can help our teams come up with the most innovative mobility solutions to plug the gaps in the transport landscape,” commented Grab Ventures head Chris Yeo. “The partnership will enable Volocopter to further develop urban air mobility solutions that are relevant for Southeast Asian commuters so that they can decide on their preferred journey option based on their budgets, time constraints, and other needs in a seamless way.”
Volocopter is not one of the eight eVTOL aircraft developers so far selected by Uber as a partner for its planned Uber Air rideshare service. The Germany-based company has yet to indicate any intention to launch service in the U.S. Last year, it conducted a public demonstration of a prototype aircraft in Singapore and also unveiled its Voloport concept for a passenger terminal.
This story comes from FutureFlight.aero resource developed by AIN to provide objective, independent coverage of new aviation technology, including electric aircraft developments.