After expanding to Singapore late last year following a string of test flights with its radical 18-rotor aircraft, German aviation startup Volocopter has now announced plans to build its first flying taxi station in city, with flight trials to kick off soon after its completion.
Volocopter's vision centers on using electrically-powered aircraft to hoist folks over urban areas on short trips, which will work to ease congestion and pollution in busy city centers. It says its two-seater aircraft will be capable of traveling just under 30 km (18.6 mi) on each charge, and be quiet enough at altitudes of 100 m (330 ft) to not be heard from ground level.
In the last year or so, it has started to share its ideas around what its flying taxi stations might look like, and also teamed up with Frankfurt Airport to research and develop such infrastructure. Part of that vision are so-called Volo-Ports, which would function basically as helipads in designated locations, such as on top of a shopping mall, where passengers can hail a ride from their smartphone.
The company has today announced plans to construct the very first prototype Volo-Port in Singapore. According to Volocopter, this will allow it start testing how a passenger's journey will play out, including what the passenger lounge might look like and how they'll board the aircraft. The prototype will also be used to test out things like how flat vehicle batteries will be swapped over for fresh ones and charging procedures.
Of course, a fully functional Volocopter service is a long way off coming to a city center near you. There will be a whole lot of testing and validation to be carried out before regulators give a proper flying taxi service the green light. Volocopter, however, is making no secret of its lofty ambitions, stating that the prototype Volo-Port will be complete and test flights will be underway by the end of 2019.
"Receiving the commercial license for air taxi aircraft is a question of time not possibility," says Alex Zosel, Co-Founder of Volocopter. "We are thus focusing on shaping the necessary ecosystem around UAM (urban air mobility) including air traffic management, city regulation and the take-off and landing infrastructure ... Once regulation comes through on the aviation and city level – and this will be sooner than most think – we will be ready to take off."
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