Volocopter raises $55M led by Volvo owner Geely, sets 3-year timeline for its flying taxi service – gpgmail


The promise of flying cars has become an idea more synonymous with the tech world’s shortcomings than its exciting potential, but today one of the startups that has been focused on actually trying to make small, airborne vehicles a reality is announcing a fundraise and says it’s on track for a commercial launch in two to three years.

Volocopter, which has been building drone-like autonomous electric flying taxis for its own (as-yet unlaunched) urban commercial passenger transportation service — the latest model is its two-passenger VoloCity announced earlier this summer — has closed €50 million ($55 million) in funding led by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Ltd, the Chinese automotive company that owns Volvo, Lotus and a number of other car brands. There are also plans for another significant tranche of money underway, likely to be closed later this year.

In this latest round, Geely is investing alongside other unnamed new and existing investors in the Bruchsal, Germany-based company. Previous backers include Intel and Daimler, the German car giant that owns Mercedes and a number of other brands.

Rene Griemens, Volocopter’s CFO, said in an interview that the German company intends to use the funding to continue working on its taxi R&D; meeting safety and other regulatory requirements for its small taxi vessels (which seat two); working other upcoming models such as those that can transport cargo; and business development around commercial launches.

Indeed, part of this latest investment is paving the way for future business: Geely and Volocopter will be working on a joint venture to bring the Volocopter and its “Urban Air Mobility” concept to China.

While there is no commercial airtaxi or other “flying car” services in existence today in any urban area, the market for hopefuls is a crowded one, with the likes of Lilium, Kitty Hawk, eHang, Uber, and many others building completely new styles of aircraft and hoping to play a role in offering short-range flights as an affordable alternative to road-based transportation. (Blade, an airtaxi service of sorts, is offering more conventional helicopters and other vessels in its limited launch for executives.)

“Urban mobility needs to evolve in the next few years to meet rising demand,” said Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter, in a statement. “With our Volocopter air taxis, we are adding a whole new level of mobility in the skies.”

Among its many potential competitors, Volocopter has been one of the more prolific when it comes to building and testing its drone-like vehicles, most recently in Helsinki where it became the first autonomous VTOL — vertical take-off and landing — aircraft to operate in the same airspace as other commercial aircraft.

(You might also recall when Intel brought the Volocopter on stage at CES in Las Vegas in 2018 for a flight demonstration during its keynote, still the only time the Volocopter has been airborne in the US.)

Details on how Volocopter’s service would operate are still — pardon the expression — up in the air, but Griemens said that while Volocopter would own the aircraft, it would likely partner with local operators to help run the service. The average price of each aircraft, he noted, may be akin to a small helicopter, but operations would likely be one-fifth to one-quarter of the price. While initial rides would be expensive, between five and 10 years, they estimate the price would come down to the cost of a taxi ride on the ground.

“The goal was always to democratize flying,” he said.

Its first launch markets are likely to be Singapore, Dubai — where it has a partnership with the city — and an unspecified large European city. That could be somewhere in its home market of Germany, or Helsinki, but just as equally London, where the company has been engaging with city officials on what an airtaxi service could look like. (It’s also part of a new experimental ‘sandbox’ launched by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority to test out technology related to air-based transportation and travel.)

But even with regulatory frameworks in place, delays can come in many forms. This isn’t even the first time that Volocopter has predicted commercial services in “two to three years.”

Nevertheless, startups like Volocopter represent a credible version of the future of transportation, so for companies like Geely, Daimler and Intel, which still have large legacy businesses, investing in and working with Volocopter gives them a shot at playing a key role (and having a financial stake) in that market.

“Geely is transitioning from being an automotive manufacturer to a mobility technology group, investing in and developing a wide range of next-generation technologies,” said Li Shufu, Geely’s chairman, in a statement. “Our joint venture with Volocopter underlines our confidence in Volocopter air taxis as the next ambitious step in our wider expansion in both electrification and new mobility services.”

Geely already works with Volocopter’s investor Daimler — which has been a prolific investor in next-generation transportation services — on ride-sharing services in the country.


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Volocopter’s 2X eVTOL records a first with flight at Helsinki International Airport – gpgmail


The Volocopter 2X air taxi vehicle is now the first electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) craft to fly at an international airport, fully integrated into the same airspace as other commercial passenger craft. It performed this key milestone flight at Helsinki International Airport, in a demonstration mission that showed it successfully integrated with both traditional air traffic management, and air traffic management systems designed specifically for aircraft with no pilot on board controlling the vehicle manually.

The test is intended to show that air traffic management systems which are designed for both traditional piloted flight and autonomous aircraft, including air robotaxis, can operate in concert with one another, even in areas with dense sky traffic – including over cities in future.

Volocopter, which recently unveiled a new version of its eVTOL which it intends to be the version that goes into commercial service once it launches for paying customers, ran tests at Helsinki airport along with AirMap, Altitude Angel and Unifly, all providers of air traffic management services for unpiloted aerial craft. Through the test, they determined that the Volocopter systems work well with each provider, which is a key step towards gaining certification for commercial flight.

The German startup will be flying its 2X vehicle at an event in Stuttgart on September 14, but its next major milestone will be unveiling the new VoloCity commercial craft and its prototype VoloPort take-off and landing facility in Singapore later this year.


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Volocopter reveals its first commercial aircraft, the VoloCity air taxi – gpgmail


It’s a race to the skies in terms of which company actually deploys an on-demand air taxi service based around electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft – for its part, German startup Volocopter is taking another key step with the revelation of its first aircraft designed for actual commercial use, the VoloCity.

The VoloCity is the fourth-generation eVTOL vehicle that Volocopter has created, but the first three were created for testing and demonstration purposes, and have flown over 1,000 times in service of that goal. The VoloCity, an 18-rotor VTOL with a range of around 35 km (just under 22 miles) and a top speed of about 70 mph, is designed for transporting up to two people, including light luggage like backpacks, briefcases or purses.

VoloCity Top

Volocopter has paid close attention to safety and comfort with this design, meeting the safety standards set by the European Aviation Sfey Agency, and including a new stabilizer that hasn’t been a part of the test aircraft, in rod to provide more stability during flight.

Now, Voloctoper says it’s turning its attention to infrastructure and ecosystem development, which includes establishing its ‘VoloPorts’ for take-off and landing, as well as working with cities on air traffic control. The company says it’s meeting already with global operators that serve this purpose, including Fraport, which runs the Frankfurt International Airport.

As for when VoloCity moves from render to reality, Volocopter says that it’s targeting a first public test flight for Q4 of this year in Singapore, where it’ll also show off the prototype of first first VoloPort, pictured in concept images below.


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