A new electric ‘air taxi’ from aircraft manufacturer Volocopter has completed its first successful test flight.
The aircraft, named VoloConnect, is being designed to transport business travellers and commuters around urban and suburban areas at up to 155 mph.
During the test flight, that lasted 2 minutes and 14 seconds, it reached 40 mph when flying forwards and 28 mph when flying sideways.
VoloConnect is an electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (eVTOL), and also completed a few basic manoeuvres during its maiden journey.
The lift-and-cruise aircraft is still a prototype, but Volocopter has confirmed the aircraft has ‘all the planned aerodynamics and performance features of the future commercial product’.
VoloConnect is the company’s third vehicle undergoing test flights – after the VoloCity and VoloDrone – making Volocopter the only eVTOL developer in the world to have a fleet of aircraft at that stage of testing.
VoloConnect is an electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (eVTOL) that completed its first successful, uncrewed test flight in May. During the test flight it reached 40 mph when flying forwards and 28 mph when flying sideways
VoloConnect is the company’s third vehicle undergoing test flights – after the VoloCity and VoloDrone – making Volocopter the only eVTOL developer in the world to have a fleet of aircraft at that stage of testing
It was announced yesterday at the UP.Summit transportation tech conference in Bentonville, Arkansas, that the eVTOL had taken its maiden uncrewed test flight in May, after 17 months in development.
Further trips have been taken since then, as part of the initial phase of testing for the prototype, designed to evaluate the aircraft’s performance and limitation.
Engineers from Volocopter, based in Bruchsal, Germany, are assessing the aircraft’s low and high speeds and its ability to transition between vertical and horizontal flight.
They will also be looking closely at its ability to compensate for engine failure while in crewed, and later autonomous, flights.
VoloConnect is being designed to transport business travellers and commuters around cities at speeds of up to 155 mph
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN VOLOCONNECT AND VOLOCITY?
Maximum number of passengers: Four
Number of rotors: Six, with two electric fans
Top forward speed: 155 mph
Range: 62 miles
Features: Sideways movement
Intended use: Long urban and suburban trips for commuters and business travellers
Launch date target: 2026
VoloConnect, Volocopter’s four-seater aircraft, takes its first flight
Maximum number of passengers: Two
Number of rotors: 18
Top speed: 68 mph
Range: 22 miles
Features: Four times quieter than a small helicopter
Intended use: Short, intra-city trips like to the airport or train station
Launch date target: 2024
Two-seater eVTOL VoloCity is designed for small metropolitan trips
VoloConnect has been designed to keep moving parts to a minimum, and features six rotors for vertical takeoffs and landings.
It also has two electric fans that work with its fixed wings to create uplift for forward flying.
Developers claim it should ultimately have a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h), a cruising speed of 112 mph (180 km/h) and a maximum range of 62 miles (100 km).
It’s capable of carrying four passengers, and is planned to be in service by 2026.
Sebastian Mores, the Chief Engineer at VoloConnect in Munich, said: ‘This is an extraordinary moment for us.
‘Seeing the VoloConnect soar to the sky marks the achievement of one of our key milestones and demonstrates just what we are capable of in a short time and in line with the company’s overall strategy for crewed and uncrewed aircraft.
‘Furthermore, new technologies will be tested that will gradually be implemented during the overall program development.’
VoloConnect is offering further and faster journeys than any other of the Volocopter aircrafts to date, including their shorter-haul eVTOL, VoloCity.
VoloCity is designed for small metropolitan trips, unlike the VoloConnect which is intended to make suburban connection flights for business travellers and commuters.
It has already made several crewed test flights, and has a top speed of 68 mph and a range of 22 miles, making it well suited to short urban hops.
VoloCity is capable of carrying two people and can be flown autonomously, remotely, or by an onboard pilot.
Volocopter intends to fully integrate both aircraft, as well as their utility drone VoloDrone that will be able to carry up to 200 kg, into urban air mobility regions and use the VoloIQ software to unite all their operations and maintenance.
CEO of Volocopter, Florian Reuter, said: ‘Having a whole family of electric aircraft in the test flight phase is a pioneering feat.
VoloConnect has been designed to keep moving parts to a minimum, and features six rotors for vertical takeoffs and landings
Developers claim that VoloConnect should ultimately have a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h), a cruising speed of 112 mph (180 km/h) and a maximum range of 62 miles (100 km). It’s can carry four passengers, and is planned to be in service by 2026
The VoloCity air taxi (pictured) is designed for small metropolitan trips, and is capable of carrying two people and can be flown autonomously, remotely, or by an onboard pilot
‘Volocopter’s leadership in the industry stems from announcing plans and then delivering on them visibly with public test flights.
‘Our technology platform is the foundation for our family of aircraft approach and has proven to deliver results at an astounding speed.
‘Volocopter is bringing these innovative designs off the ground, into the air, and then to cities worldwide!’
WHAT ARE VOLOCOPTER’S MAIN COMPETITORS?
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has been working on a flying taxi. It was first called Vahana (pictured) but has now been merged with another design and renamed CityAirbus Nextgen
Volocopter faces stiff competition from several other firms, who are racing to be the first to have a publicly-available flying car for use in the skies:
Slovakian engineering company AeroMobil has developed what it claims is the world’s first four-seater flying taxi, called AM NEXT, which is half supercar, half light aircraft vehicle.
The vehicle is planned for launch in 2027, and is capable of transforming between modes in less than three minutes, according to the company.
AeroMobil hopes the AM NEXT will save commuters ‘significant’ time when travelling distances of 100 to 500 miles between major cities.
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus had been working on a driverless flying taxi called Vahana with plans to first have a pilot, and later be autonomous.
It later merged the design for this with another eVTOL and renamed the urban air taxi the CityAirbus Nextgen.
Israeli tech firm Urban Aeronautics originally designed its people-carrying drone as an ‘air mule’ for military use.
German technology company Lilium Aviation is working on a two-seater aircraft that will take off vertically using 36 electric fan engines arrayed along its wings
Dubbed the Cormorant, this vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft is capable of carrying 1,000 pounds over 31 miles, allowing it to deliver supplies to war zones and carry wounded soldiers to safety.
In 2020, Urban Aeronautics teamed up with the Singapore-based company Ascent to accelerate commercialisation of the CityHawk, a hydrogen/electric VTOL aircraft which has succeeded the Cormorant.
German technology company Lilium Aviation is working on a two-seater aircraft that will take off vertically using 36 electric fan engines arrayed along its wings.
The egg-shaped plane, called Lilium, has been heralded as high up as the European Space Agency (ESA), who highlight its environmental benefits as well as not needing to land at an airport.
Chinese drone maker EHang has been flight-testing a person-carrying drone in Nevada.
Terrafugia, based in Woburn, Massachusetts, is working on a ‘flying car’ called the TF-X – a car with folding arms and rotors for vertical takeoff and landing
The vehicle is a cockpit with four arms equipped with a total of eight rotors.
The company says the 184 is autonomous, so all the passenger has to do is enter in their destination in the smartphone app, sit back, and let the drone take over.
EHang 184 could be ready in the coming years.
Terrafugia, based in Woburn, Massachusetts, is working on a ‘flying car’ called the TF-X – a car with folding arms and rotors for vertical takeoff and landing.
The TF-X is still in development and a launch date remains unclear.