DUBAI. An autonomous urban air taxi took flight for the first time in public airspace. The Volocopter two-seat, electric unmanned aircraft system (UAS) from Volocopter GmbH in Bruchsal, Germany, performed an autonomous test flight in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), helping to establish the feasibility and safety of airborne taxis as a means of public transportation.
Following weeks of intense safety assessments of vehicle, operations and the test site, Volocopter GmbH performed the historic flight on 25 Sept. 2017 in Dubai. The Volocopter fully electrically powered multicopter features 18 rotors and is designed to transport people by flight in city areas. Its redundant power trains and an intelligent autonomous control system are intended to offer maximum reliability. This technology has now been tested under the extreme climatic conditions of Dubai, and the demonstration fulfilled the strict prerequisites of Dubai’s aviation authorities, officials say.
Dubai government officials in the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) signed an agreement with the Volocopter related to testing autonomous air taxis in the emirate.
“The project has been scheduled to run for five years,” Alexander Zosel, co-founder of Volocopter, says.
Officials in Dubai anticipate that 25 percent of all passenger travel will be handled by autonomous transportation by as early as 2030. For the world’s first regular test run of autonomous air taxis, the emirate has asked Volocopter’s experts on board for additional support. “We are very grateful and proud that the RTA has selected us as their partner after rigorous testing,” Zosel says. Primary reasons for choosing Volocopter included the stringent German and international safety standards.
Volocopter focuses on making flying an option for everyone and on re-inventing mobility in urban areas. The company established its place in aviation history in 2011 with the first manned flight of an electric multicopter, officials say. “We see Dubai as the pioneer for a huge evolving market,” says Zosel, who is convinced that many other metropolitan areas will follow. “We now have a fantastic opportunity to work with the RTA on the development and testing of the entire future ecosystem for safe autonomous air transport using Dubai as a first showcase project,” Zosel adds.
In July 2017, Volocopter entered into a finance deal for more than 25 million Euros with automobile firm Daimler from Stuttgart, technology investor Lukasz Gadowski from Berlin, and further investors. Using this fresh capital, Volocopter will further expand upon the technology in its electrically driven vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), or eVTOL, speed the introduction of the Volocopter serial model, and conquer the market for flying air taxis, officials say.
Together with its partners, Volocopter will be using the new funding to further expand upon technical innovations and its pioneering role within the emerging industry. The plan is to further the development of the Volocopter up to production maturity and commercial licensing through aviation authorities worldwide. To speed up progress, the employment of additional engineers specialized in the development of flight systems, software and electric propulsion as well as the development of commercial function is envisaged.
“The strong financial commitment of our new investors is a signal as well as proof of the growing confidence in the newly emerging market for electrically driven VTOLs put to use as personal air taxis,” says Florian Reuter, managing director of Volocopter.
The quiet and environmentally friendly aircraft, suitable for transporting two passengers, will revolutionize mobility in metropolitan areas, according to company officials. Automobile companies specifically are intensely interested in the mobility of the future - in autonomous driving and electrical mobility, officials say.
“I have been interested in flying cars and following their development for a while. When I saw the Volocopter I got it: The ‘flying car’ has no wheels,” Investor Lukasz Gadowski says. “What is exciting at Volocopter is not just the magnificent vision but also that which has already been tangibly implemented. Huge ambition with both feet on the ground -- a unique combination! In the coming years, we can expect a revolution in manned aviation.”
Volocopter GmbH develops vertically launching, fully electrical multicopters for the transport of people and of heavy lifting cargo drones. The technical platform is extremely flexible and permits piloted, remote controlled, and fully autonomous flight. In addition, the unique design offers a high degree of safety based on the high redundancy of all critical components. The company’s stated objective is to make every human’s dream of flying come true and to help modern cities resolve their increasing mobility issues.
The first licensed Volocopter should be on the market next year. In the meantime, founders Stephan Wolf and Alexander Zosel have gathered an excellent team of experienced managers like CEO Florian Reuter (formerly of Siemens) and CTO Jan-Hendrik Boelens (formerly of Airbus Helicopters), paving the way for further expansion of the company.
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