Volocopter announced the VoloDrone freight-carrying version of the VoloCity eVTOL aircraft.
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. At the time, the company said it aimed to complete type certification by the end of 2022, but this timeline has since slipped 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 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 organization 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."
In September 2020, Volocopter began taking reservations for flights in its VoloCity eVTOL, offering attendees of the Greentech Festival in Berlin—where Volocopter was displaying its two-seat aircraft—the ability to reserve 15-minute flights by placing a "10 percent" deposit of €300 (~$350). The company plans to conduct these flights within a year after the start of commercial operations in 2023, and wants to provide the in-flight video and a personalized certificate for each of these early passengers. Having offered 1,000 of these flight reservations thus far, Volocopter will raise up to €300,000 on top of a Series C funding round in February that brought the company an additional €87 million in funding.
On December 1, 2020, in collaboration with the Economic Development Board of Singapore (EDB) and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), Volocopter announced its commitment to bring air taxi services to Singapore by the end of 2023. Over the next three years, it intends to recruit a team of 50 pilots, engineers, operation specialists, and business managers, and hopes to quadruple this number by 2026 to operate a network of routes across the Singaporean region. This comes amidst continued talks with cities including Dubai, Paris, and London, where the company also hopes to someday launch air taxi services.
While the company awaits completion of regulatory approvals, it has formed a local subsidiary named Volocopter Asia Holding, recruiting former AirMap member Hon Lung Chu as its head of Asia Pacific in Singapore.
A March 2, 2021 announcement revealed Volocopter had raised an additional €200 million ($240 million) in a Series D funding round, which it says will be sufficient to get the all-electric eVTOL certified and into commercial operations in 2023. Now totaling €322 million ($387 million) in funding, the Germany-based company is holding off from venturing onto the publicly-traded route like its American counterparts Joby Aviation and Archer through their February SPAC mergers, opting instead to continue support from international venture capital. The company now has 300 employees at its headquarters near Munich with a new office in Singapore.
In a July 2021 announcement, Volocopter revealed its alliance with Malaysia Airports and Skyports to develop plans to build vertiports for urban air mobility (UAM) service in the Southeast Asian country. Through this memorandum of understanding, the partners plan to evaluate suitable sites for operating eVTOL aircraft, like Volocopter’s two-seat VoloCity multicopter and the larger, longer-range VoloConnect fixed-wing model (which has subsequently been renamed VoloRegion. The study will take account of factors such as demand for flights, customer throughput, and how to integrate all aspects of UAM operations, further cementing Volocopter's place in the emerging UAM market.
In September 2021, through an agreement with Chinese automotive group Geely (one of its leading shareholders), Volocopter announced that a new subsidiary company in China will purchase and operate 150 of its VoloCity vehicle. The joint venture with Geely will operate out of Chengdu. This year has also seen the company stepping up efforts to launch eVTOL air taxi services in locations such as Los Angeles, Japan, and South Korea.
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.
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.
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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).
In December 2020, the company secured an agreement with Singapore to potentially launch air taxi services by the end of 2023.
The $240 million raised from a Series D funding round completed in early March 2021, brought its total capital tally to almost $400 million. This is markedly less than rivals who have opted for $1 billion-plus flotations through mergers with special purpose acquisition companies, raising questions as to whether that course might still be on the horizon for Volocopter.
Since bolstering its financial foundations, while, for now at least, steering clear of a SPAC-backed share flotation like several of its rivals, Volocopter appears to be building momentum for type certification of its VoloCity aircraft. It is also advancing partnerships that should pave the way for the launch of commercial air taxi and cargo operations (with its VoloDrone vehicle) in several German locations, as well as cities including Los Angeles, Paris, Osaka, and Singapore. Its commitment to develop the larger, longer-range VoloConnect aircraft suggests a longer-term business plan that would expand the scope of its air mobility ambitions.
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.
German logistics group DB Schenker led a €87 million ($104 million) Series C funding round. 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).
A handful of new investors including funds managed by BlackRock, Avala Capital, Atlantia S.p.A, Continental AG, NTT, Jericho Capital, and Tokyo Century made investments through the Series D round. In addition, existing backers such as automotive groups Geely and Daimler, logistics company DB Schenker, and venture capitalists Intel Capital, Btov Partners, Team Europe, and Klocke Holding made further investments.