On The Radar
Critics of eVTOL aircraft developer Volocopter commonly point to what they say are excessively limited applications for its all-electric VoloCity model, which, initially, will carry a pilot plus one passenger on short, largely urban, trips of up to 22 miles. Eventually, the company expects the multicopter to be approved for autonomous operations, freeing up a second revenue-generating seat, but, until battery technology takes a big leap forward, range will still be limited to short hops.
So, the recent unearthing of a U.S. patent application for a larger model sheds new light on Volocopter's intentions. It features a diagram showing a pair of wings mounted on the top of the fuselage connected by beams, each fitted with three propellers for vertical lift. At the rear of the fuselage is a pair of propellers to drive cruise flight, although the patent description mentions that “ducted fans, jets, turbofans, or turbojets” might be considered as alternative propulsion architectures.
The patent application, which was filed on May 29, 2020, and published on December 31, is vague about the number of passengers or other payload that the winged aircraft could carry. While the drawings don’t provide any close-up impression of a cabin, it would appear that there could well be space for four passengers and a pilot. In fact, this was confirmed by Volocopter CFO Rene Griemens during a webinar on advanced air mobility organized by IPO Edge magazine on March 23. This would potentially make the larger-scale, lift-and-cruise Volocopter model more directly comparable to aircraft now in the works with other advanced air mobility front runners such as Joby Aircraft and Archer.
Acknowledging the U.S. patent filing, which was based on a filing in Europe back in June 2019, the German company said that that it has always envisaged alternatives to the VoloCity, which it hopes to see enter commercial service during 2023. A spokeswoman told FutureFlight that while the development of the VoloCity remains the key priority, “we are keeping our eyes and ears open to look beyond to other considerations.”