South American rotorcraft operator Ecocopter is collaborating with Airbus on possible plans to launch urban air mobility (UAM) services with eVTOL aircraft in markets including Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. Under a memorandum of understanding signed on September 20, the companies are working on possible use cases for air taxis and other eVTOL operations that will include defining possible early-adopter markets in the three countries.
Chile-based Ecocopter has been in business since 2003 and is engaged in services such as offshore transportation, mining operations support, medical evacuation, firefighting, and other aerial work. Today it operates an all-Airbus fleet of helicopters including 16 H125s, a pair of H135s, and three H145s.
“With already 20 years of experience operating helicopters and five years operating drones, this partnership is a natural step for us,” said Ecocopter CEO Marcelo Rajchman. “We seek to be a relevant player in the UAM ecosystem, and the projects we will develop together with Airbus will bring us closer to this goal.”
In September 2021, Airbus announced plans to build a four-passenger eVTOL prototype called the CityAirbus NextGen that would operate on flights of up to around 80 km (50 miles). The European aerospace group’s Airbus Helicopters subsidiary is preparing to have a full-scale prototype ready to start flight testing in 2023, as it works toward a targeted type certification in 2025.
The agreement announced this week does not mention any specific commitment for Ecocopter to order the CityAirbus NextGen, which features a fixed-wing design with a V-shaped tail. Airbus is already collaborating with ITA Airways in Italy on plans for eVTOL operations and also this year launched its Air Mobility Initiative in Germany.