Japan Airlines and Volocopter partner to launch UAM services in Japan

Japan Airlines (JAL) and Volocopter GmbH announced a new agreement on September 29th, to promote the development of the urban air mobility industry (UAM) through air transportation of passengers and goods.

In February 2020, Japan Airlines Innovation Fund invested in Volocopter, which is aiming to create and bring electrically-powered air taxis and heavy-lift cargo drone technology to the market, as part of its Series C funding round.

The agreement outlines that Volocopter and JAL will work on sustainable commercial operations of air taxis in Japan. By establishing local partnerships to build market demand and social acceptance, the two aim for a commercial launch in the next three years.

A picture of a Volocopter UAM vehicle flying over a Japanese city.

Volocity flying over a city in Japan. Courtesy of Volocopter.

When asked which cities were likely to see these services first, Volocopter told Helicopter & VTOL Investor: “There are the usual suspects, the bigger cities in Japan. However, there is also interest for the VoloDrone and island-use cases with the VoloCity that are attractive.

In October 2019, Volocopter successfully performed a piloted flight over Singapore’s Marina Bay and is currently focused on receiving commercial certification for their VoloCity aircraft from EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency).

As far as being certified for flight in Japan goes, Volocopter expects that it will be possible to transfer its EASA certification to be valid in Japan. “The local aviation authority, Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, has an open exchange with EASA and there are standing procedures for such transfers,” added the representative from Volocopter.

JAL, with its experience in commercial aviation, will lend weight to the operations. In addition, JAL told Helicopter & VTOL Investor it hopes to make the service available for emergency medical services in remote mountainous regions. Specifically, due to the “aging populating and the shortage of drivers and doctors”.

Also backing the venture are insurance provider Mitsui Sumitomo and business development partners MS&AD InterRisk Research & Consulting.

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