Volocopter makes first flight amid other airport traffic
Those working to safely implement flying taxis into the airspace over busy cities face a long and challenging road, but German aviation startup Volocopter is certainly keeping its foot on the pedal. The latest outing for its all-electric aircraft saw it take to the sky at Helsinki airport, which the company says was the first time such a vehicle has flown while fully integrated into an air traffic management system at an international airport.
Flying taxi companies like Volocopter, Kitty Hawk and Uber face all kinds of technological and regulatory challenges ahead of any kind of commercial roll out, and a proven ability to safely fly in the midst of other air traffic will be a huge factor in determining their success. Back in 2017, we saw NASA team up with Uber to develop new air traffic management systems to accommodate this anticipated aerial influx.
In the case of Volocopter, the company hopes to eventually set up networks of skyports stationed around cities, say on top of shopping malls or hotels, where its 18-rotor autonomous aircraft will hop between terminals with a couple of passengers onboard at a time. It is also collaborating with Frankfurt airport in Germany to explore how this kind of infrastructure can be built into airports.
The recent demonstration flight in Helsinki was part of the Single European Sky ATM Research program (SESAR), a public-private venture to overhaul European airspace for an era of unmanned aircraft. In it, the company’s flying taxi lifted off while completely connected to the airport’s air traffic control systems, along with similar experimental systems from a number of service providers, exchanging data in real time throughout the flight.
“We are happy to say that all providers we tested were compatible with the Volocopter systems,” said Jan-Hendrik Boelens, CTO of Volocopter.
The company has another test flight for the Volocopter planned for mid-September in Stuttgart, Germany, and will also present an updated design for its VoloPort terminals in Singapore later in the year. You can check out its latest jaunt in the video below.