The drone taxis are coming
Around the world, companies are vying to be the first to fly people in autonomous aircraft
WHEELS has been predicting drones that can fly up to two people over cities will become the next big disruptor in transport faster than even we expect.
Because drones that can be hailed to fly us 30 km away is as close as humans will get to teleportation. Now German company Volocopter has added more flesh to this prediction.
Volocopter currently leads the big drone race to develop electrical vertical take-off and landing multicopters (eVTOL) as autonomous air taxis for the safe transport of people.
The company last week presented its plans to fly 100 000 people an hour in air taxis high above big cities at prices the company predicts “won’t be significantly more expensive than taking a cab”.
Volocopter’s vision integrates air taxis into existing transportation systems and provides additional mobility for up to 10 000 passengers per day with a single point-to-point connection.
Co-founder Alex Zosel said in a statement he expects the first full Volocopter air taxi systems with dozens of Volo-Hubs and Volo-Ports to be in place by 2028, capable of flying 100 000 passengers an hour to their desired destination.
Volocopters are emissionfree, electrically powered aircraft that take off and land vertically offering a high degree of safety based on full redundancy in all critical systems.
The German company has shown repeatedly that Volocopters fly safely, first in Dubai and then in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
At the event, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich became the very first passenger in a Volocopter in the U.S.
“That was fantastic. That was the best flight I have ever had. Everybody will fly one of these someday,” said Krzanich after completing the flight.
Ecosystem of air taxis
Florian Reuter, CEO at Volocopter, said the group’s ambitions do not end with developing the aircraft, but continue to “develop the entire ecosystem making air taxi services a reality across the world”.
This includes the physical and digital infrastructure to manage unmanned systems.
The presented concept defines the infrastructure necessary to operate and scale an air taxi service into a full network system spanning over mega cities.
It consists of Volo-Hubs and Volo-Ports.
The Volo-Hubs resemble cable cart stations with Volocopters landing and taking off every 30 seconds for example. Once landed the Volocopter is moved inside the Volo-Hub. Passengers alight the aircraft protected from wind and weather.
Battery packs will be swapped automatically in a protected area by robots before moving on to the section where passengers embark for take-off.
Volo-Hubs are the key to substantially increase the capacity of any Volocopter system.
Aside from protected deboarding and embarking, they offer sufficient space to park all Volocopters in operation and provide the infrastructure for charging and maintenance.
Volo-Ports on every mall
Volo-Ports expand the VoloHub system and offer direct access to a company, shopping mall, hotel or train station for example.
They do not require any charging or parking infrastructure and subsequently will be less complex to build.
Any Heliports can be used as a Volo-Port with minimal modification.
“We expect any air taxi transport system to begin with a point to point connection and over time grow into a system of dozens of Volo-Hubs in a city.” says Alex Zosel, co-founder of Volocopter.
“Once operated at scale, flying won’t be significantly more expensive than taking a cab, but it will be significantly faster.”
The company focuses on developing their aircrafts specifically for inner city missions. Volocopter features an extremely stable flight allowing it to manoeuvre micro turbulences around skyscrapers thus offering a smooth ride for passengers.
Inaudible from 100 m away
It has an agreeable sound signature and is so quiet that from 100 m away, it will not be heard over the background noise of a typical city.
As it is electrically powered, it is emission-free in flight.
Both noise and pollution are paramount considerations to achieving public acceptance of any new transport system.
The technical platform is extremely flexible and permits piloted, remote controlled, and fully autonomous flight.
In addition, the unique design offers unprecedented degrees of safety based on the high level of redundancy in all critical components.
As early as 2011 the company earned its entry into the history of aviation through the manned flight of the world’s first purely electrical multicopter.
In 2016 Volocopter was granted provisional licensing for a twoseater Volocopter by the German aviation authority.
In 2017 the aviation start-up showcased the first ever autonomous flight of an air taxi in cooperation with RTA Dubai. In the meantime, the founders Stephan Wolf and Alexander Zosel have gathered a team of experienced managers like CEO Florian Reuter and CTO Jan-Hendrik. Daimler, Intel and Lukasz Gadowski are among the investors in the company.
An artist’s impression of one of German company Volvocopter’s autonomous drones flying to a helipad built high over a city’s clogged roads.
Chinese company eHang is already testing a singe-seat eight-rotor drone platform in Dubai as well as China.