At what point do zany flying taxi concepts become feasible urban mobility solutions? Daimler seems to have seen enough from e-volo's Volocopter to believe this 18-rotor autonomous flying machine is the real deal, with the company among a set of investors to pump more than US$29 million in total into the aviation startup.
Daimler has been as active as anyone when it comes to autonomous vehicle technologies. Its Mercedes E-Class vehicles were the first to receive approval for autonomous testing in Nevada, and its self-driving trucks have been racking up test miles since 2015. Its recent partnership with Bosch, meanwhile, is hoped to help get self-driving cars on the road by the start of the next decade.
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And now its seems that the automobile manufacturer sees great potential in the future of sky-bound autonomous tech, too. Volocopter first emerged in 2013 as an all-electric two-passenger aircraft, designed to one day take folks from point A to point B without the need for a pilot, much like the Ehang taxi drone set to be trialled in Dubai this year.
The company has conducted more than 100 unmanned tests, and then last year its managing director climbed aboard and conducted the first manned flight. It has also revised the design, with the Volocopter 2 running on swappable batteries so it can take off again within minutes if it runs out of juice. It can fly for around 30 minutes at a time, lifts off and lands vertically and has a top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph).
With this new injection of cash, e-volo says it will be better equipped to keep improving on the technologies behind its all-electric aircraft and also invest in its team. The funds come courtesy of Daimler, investor Lukasz Gadowski and other undisclosed financiers.
And it mightn't be long before we see the Volocopter 2 in action in the real world. The city of Dubai has signed on to trial the aircraft in the fourth quarter of this year, as it aims to make 25 percent of passenger transportation in the city autonomous by the year 2030.
Source: Volocopter 2View gallery - 6 images