Volocopter – First out of the gate


A slew of different manufacturers developing passenger vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft ready for the next decade, making promises for full-scale production in early 2020 and with not that much to show.

Volocopter is out the gate early, having just sent its concept VTOL aircraft to the production line.

The German VTOL start-up has partnered with seaplane and motor-glider manufacture DG Flugzeugbau to start producing an unspecified “large-number” of Volocopter’s 2X passenger drone.

DG Flugzeugbau announced on its website: “DG Flugzeugbau recently got an order to manufacture a large number of Volocopters from Volocopter GmbH. The Volocopter 2X, as the latest version is called, is the first aircraft of its kind that enters a serial production. A lot of companies in many different countries have been working on similar projects to create tomorrow’s mobility solutions.”

Volocopter gained widespread media attention in January this year when it flew its first passenger, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich, autonomously at the Consumer Electronics Show 2018. Mr Krzanich sang the aircraft’s praises, saying: “That was fantastic. That was the best flight I have ever had. Everybody will fly one of these someday.”

This follows a number of ‘firsts’ Volocopter can attach to its name. The 2X was the first electric VTOL

How it got off the ground

Volocopter was one of the first companies to consider the idea of a commercial VTOL. It flew its first prototype, which was essentially a car seat strapped to 16 propellers, back in 2011.

After a five-year R&D period, it had a working model of its electric multicopter – the VC1. The next prototype, the VC2 received its certificate of airworthiness and took its first manned flight in 2016.

The company was perhaps more attractive to investors than other air-taxi projects as the Volocopter was already in talks to with cities to secure permission to fly. Volocopter signed a deal with the Road and Transport Authority (RTA) of Dubai in June last year to conduct test flights across the city for five years.

Just after this news hit, Volocopter secured financial backing to help get the product out and flying early. In August last year, the VTOL manufacturer secured Eu25 million in financing from Mercedes parent company Daimler as well as Crunchbase co-founder Lukasz Gadowski.

Infrastructure plans

It is one thing to have the aircraft built, its another to get it flying routes. Volocopter has pitched an air-taxi infrastructure service that could fly up to 10,000 passengers per day. The company’s co-founder Alex Zosel, is looking to open-up “dozens” of Volo-hub and Volo-port bases across the world over the next 10 years.

Volo-hubs are docking stations for the Volocopter. Once it lands, it will be taken on a conveyer belt to drop off passengers and have its batteries changed before arriving back at the heliport to fly. The Volo-port will provide connections for passengers from the landing area to nearby train stations, shopping centres and hotels.

Florian Reuter, CEO at Volocopter said: “Our ambitions do not end with developing the aircraft. We are here 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.”

A full breakdown of the system can be seen here.