Volocopter sells out its first tourist eVTOL flights in Singapore
Germany's Volocopter has committed to launching commercial eVTOL flights in Singapore "within the next two to three years," and advance tickets have already sold out to early adopters eager to take the first joyrides in this electric air taxi.
The company has been very active in Singapore, where it's done several test flights, including a high-profile manned flight late in 2019. Singapore doesn't strike us as a market that's crying out for air taxis, what with its very small area, well-ordered roads and terrific MRT subway system. It barely cracks the top 100 in TomTom's list of cities ranked by traffic congestion, and we've never found it anywhere near as annoying getting from A to B there as in, say, Los Angeles, or Bangkok.
It does have plenty of money, though, and a solid tech research sector, and evidently several friendly government bodies, including the local aviation authority.
“Singapore is renowned for its leading role in adapting and living new technologies,” says Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter. “Our successful cooperation with the Economic Development Board, Ministry of Transport, and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore on our previous flight has shown that there is no better place in Asia to launch our electric air taxi services than in Singapore. The city’s research institutes conducting R&D play an integral part in this. Topics like route validation for autonomous operations, material science, and research regarding battery technology are very important for our long-term business success.”
The company will build up a team of more than 200 in Singapore over the next three years, it says, and it's so confident that it has already started selling tickets for the first round of joyrides. These will be single-person flights; a pilot will take the other seat until autonomous flights have been given the green light.
The VoloFirst flights, which sold out quickly even at €300 (US$365) for what's likely to be a 10-15-minute scenic dalliance "over the Southern waters, offering breathtaking views of the Marina Bay skyline." Still, that's a ton cheaper than the only price we could find on a helicopter flight: a special deal offering a four-person, 45-minute scenic helicopter flight over Singapore for SG$3,500 (US$2,600) – with no photography allowed.
The entire thing, of course, is contingent upon certification, and Volocopter will have to be certified airworthy by the European Aviation Safety Agency as well as the Singaporean authority before it can take passengers. Although 2023 still feels early to us in the eVTOL timeline, the Volocopter is one of the simplest air taxi designs out there, harking right back to its early days as a flying yoga ball.
It doesn't have tilting rotors or wing-supported horizontal flight. It doesn't attempt to achieve long range using a fancy hydrogen powertrain. And it's a small, lightweight, battery powered pod with a whole heap of rotors on top, offering a strong redundancy factor. So compared to most of the emerging eVTOL air taxi designs, perhaps it'll be relatively easy to certify.
And considering its extremely limited range, which currently sits at just 22 miles (35 km) between battery charges, maybe the compact city of Singapore is indeed the perfect place to get started. The Volocopter service will initially be a tourism initiative from Singapore's perspective, but the company does plan to extend its flights across the Malaysian border at some point.