The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Volocopter's business plan involves building and operating autonomously-flown eVTOL aircraft over short distances in urban areas. On August 21, 2019, the company unveiled what will be its first series production aircraft under the name VoloCity and said that it will be certified under the new SC-VTOL rules introduced by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency in July 2019. The company said it aims to complete type certification by the end of 2022. The VoloCity design features improvements such as a new stabilizer to improve lift and stability in flight.

The Germany-based company achieved a first manned flight with an early proof-of-concept version of what is now its 2X model back in 2011. By 2016, it had approval from Germany's Luftfahrt-Bundesamt aviation authority to conduct manned test flights with the 2X prototype on the basis of certification as an ultralight aircraft. In September 2017, the 2X made its first autonomous flight in Dubai, which, at the time, was laying plans plans to start autonomous eVTOL air taxi services.

In October 2019, the company conducted an autonomous public flight demonstration in Singapore, where it also the first of its VoloPort ground operations bases in partnership with UK firm Skyports.

In April 2019, Volocopter and Honeywell agreed to cooperate to develop navigation and autonomous landing systems for the 2X, with plans to flight-test an inertial measurement-based attitude reference system before the end of 2019.

In 2017, the privately owned company was boosted by a $29 million injection of funding, largely backed by German automobile group Daimler and technology investor Lukasz Gadowksi.

Volocopter's initial business plan is based on the assumption that most demand for autonomously-operated eVTOL flights will be for short flights of no more than around 22 miles in urban areas. Cruise speed would be just 43 mph, with a maximum speed of 69 mph. The company says that bookings for flights will be made via its own app, but has not explained exactly how operations will be established and managed. In August, 2019, it said that it was in talks with several cities around the world about setting up on-demand air taxi operations.

On August 29, 2019, Volocopter flew its 2X prototype at Helsinki Airport in Finland as part of airspace trials conducted under the auspices of the SESAR European air traffic management program. The company claimed this marked the first time an eVTOL aircraft had been flown into the integrated airspace of an international airport. It has been conducting extensive flight testing of the 2X prototype in Germany and on September 14 staged a public demonstration of the aircraft in Stuttgart.

Since late 2018, the company has been working with German emergency medical services organisation ADAC Luftrettung to assess the potential of using the VoloCity for flights. This has included some trial flights with paramedics and also computer simulations. A report on the viability of this application is expected in 2020.

According to Volocopter, the eventual VoloCity production aircraft will incorporate everything that has been learnt from testing prototypes, including improved system redundancy and simplicity. The new version also will feature improved comfort and convenience for passengers, such as a new luggage compartment. 

On October 30, 2019, Volocopter announced plans for a freight-carrying version of the VoloCity called the VoloDrone. This offers the same payload as the passenger-carrying version, but with a standardized rail attachment system to allow it to carry packages and equipment. Unlike the Volocity, which Volocopter intends to operate purely for its own air-taxi services, the manufacturer is willing to sell or lease the VoloDrone to other operators. One application involves fitting a crop protection sprayer developed by agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere to the VoloDrone.

On February 18, 2020, Volocopter and Singapore-based consumer app Grab launched a joint feasibility study into starting urban air mobility services in southeast Asia’s largest cities. The study will identify the most suitable cities and routes for launching air taxi services and explore prospects for conducting flight trials. The partners said that the study could lead to a wider cooperation to launch urban air mobility services.

Also in February 2020, speaking at the Move conference in London, a Volocopter spokesman said that the company is on track to complete type certification of the aircraft around the end of 2022, or early in 2023. At that time, it expects to be in a position to launch commercial air taxi operations in "at least one market."

Timeline

program launched

Volocopter announced the VoloDrone freight-carrying version of the VoloCity eVTOL aircraft.

Volocopter conducted a public flight demonstration of the VoloCity for delegates to the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress and local officials. At the same time, the company unveiled a mock up of its VoloPort ground terminal concept in the city's Marina Bay district. 

partnership

On August 8, 2019, Volocopter and Honeywell agreed to cooperate to develop navigation and automatic landing systems for the VoloCity eVTOL aircraft. They plan to flight test an inertial measurement-based attitude reference system before the end of 2019.

Outlook

Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

Volocopter has been working on its eVTOL concept since 2011. It appears to have made solid and carefully planned progress in terms of demonstrating the potential for the autonomous operations on which its business plan depends. The company has been laying important preparations, such as making plans to develop ground infrastructure in the shape of its so-called VoloPort facilities. It also has established a significant technical alliance with Honeywell. 

The announcement of its plan to certify the VoloCity series production model under the new EASA SC-VTOL rules represented a significant breakthrough for the credibility of the program. 

It remains to be seen whether the very short range limit of its VoloCity model will prove to be too commercially constraining. On this basis, its entire business plan stands or falls on demand for very short hops and it appears to have nothing to offer if consumers signal a desire to fly further. Initially, the two-seater will operate with a pilot, leaving just one seat free for a paying passenger, but Volocopter does plan to move to autonomous operations when circumstances permit. It is convinced that demand will be concentrated in urban areas and points to the fact that average car occupancy is just 1.7 people.

The company's public assertion in February 2020 that it believes it is on track to complete type certification around the end of 2022 suggests that it feels it is making solid progress since beginning the EASA approval process in 2019. In the same month, it was further boosted by a new Series C investment led by logistics group DB Schenker, which raised an additional €87 million ($104 million). This was also supported by Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Group and TransLink Capital, who have joined existing investor Lukasz Gadowski and Btov. Total funding for Volocopter at this point stood at €122 million ($145 million).

VoloCity Models

VoloCity Specifications

Optionally-piloted vtol Multicopter

Performance

  • Passenger Capacity
    2
  • Range
    22 mi
  • Cruise Speed
    69 mph
  • Powerplant Type
    multi rotor
  • Power Source
    electric
  • Endurance
    n/a
  • Max Altitude
    n/a
  • Takeoff Distance
    n/a
  • Landing Distance
    n/a
  • Empty Weight
    1,540 lb
  • MGTOW
    1,980 lb
  • Payload Weight
    440 lb

Dimensions

  • Length
    n/a
  • Width
    31 ft
  • Height
    8 ft
  • Wingspan
    37 ft

VoloCity is being targeted at a very specific market for very short flights around urban areas. The two-seat series production version launched in August 2019 features design improvements such as a new stabilizer that will improve lift and stability in flight. It also features a slight increase in range and cruise speed compared with earlier prototypes. 

Power comes from nine Lithium-Ion battery packs and a brushless DC electric motor that drives 18 rotors housed in beams above the cabin. The prototype has been flown autonomously, but Volocopter intends to begin commercial operations with a pilot. It says that the battery packs will take just five minutes to replace on the ground.

Investors

Total Amount Invested: $104m

Key Personnel

Alexander Zosel is co-founder and chief innovation advisor of Volocopter.
Alexander Zosel

Founder

Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter
Florian Reuter

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Jan-Hendrik Boelens is chief technology officer for Volocopter.
Jan-Hendrik Boelens

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Rene Griemens is chief financial officer of Volocopter.
Rene Griemens

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Stephan Wolf is co-founder and chief software advisor of Volocopter.
Stephan Wolf

Founder