Urban air mobility vendor Volocopter successfully tested its first flight of the VoloConnect, a four-seat electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi.
Volocopter said it is the only eVTOL developer to be flight testing its entire fleet of aircraft.
VoloConnect is the third aircraft from Volocopter and can fly further than any of its previous eVTOLs with a range of 60 miles and flight speeds above 155 mph. The extended range and high payload of the aircraft will allow air taxis to move beyond just inter-city travel and to city-to-city travel.
The flight test of the VoloConnect follows Volocopter's successful test of its full-size VoloCity air taxi, a two-seat aircraft that could be used in the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics.
Volocopter said both the VoloCity and VoloConnect eVTOLs would be used for both metropolitan flights and suburban connections in densely populated regions. VoloCity would begin commercial service in 2024 with the VoloConnect aiming for a 2026 entry into service.
The flight test
In the video, the VoloConnect is shown completing the first flight in May after 17 months of being in development. The air taxi performed a few maneuvers for 2 minutes and 14 seconds during its first flight. The prototype contains all the planned aerodynamics and performance features of the commercial aircraft.
The VoloConnect features six rotors to facilitate vertical takeoffs while two electric fans, in combination with uplift-creating wings, ensure high forward speeds. The prototype is currently being put through a series of flight tests for aircraft including low-speed, transition, high-speed and engine failure testing for automated and later autonomous flights.
Why 2024 is important
Volocopter testing its fleet of eVTOL’s is one step closer to making the debut of these air taxis a reality.
And most companies developing air taxis are progressing nicely toward a goal of having commercial flights available by 2024. That’s not far away and these companies still must get approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and prove safety measures including successful flight testing.
Why has 2024 become the goal? There is a perfect storm of events colliding by this time including the 2024 Paris Olympics where many air taxi companies will be participating to bring Games visitors back and forth from other locations.
The technology for electric motors that can carry passengers has progressed far enough for air taxis to be viable. With actual flight testing and safety being tested as well as infrastructure being put in place, two years away is not that unattainable.
A year later at the 2025 Osaka World Expo in Japan, air taxis will be used for transporting passengers to the event at direct and scenic route locations.
Many eVTOL companies have made strides this year to hit that target commercial goal.
Joby, another company developing air taxis, this month received approval from the FAA to begin on-demand commercial air taxi operations by completing the Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate.
Joby needs two other certificates from the FAA to operate the air taxis commercially, but with the first certificate in place it is ahead of some of the other companies. Joby plans to launch its commercial services in 2024. It will likely be in limited locations at the beginning and ramp up to broader scale coverage in cities in the years following.
Another company eyeing 2024 as the year for planned services is Wisk Aero, which earlier this year began testing its four-seat eVTOL aircraft. The air taxi would provide space for passengers and baggage and would also cater to those with disabilities. Initial service will begin in three cities and expand gradually.
In April, Supernal, Hyundai’s air taxi company, and Urban-Air Port, a company developing eVTOL infrastructure, debuted the first vertiport — an airport style mobile hub that converts into a take off and landing spot for air taxis and drones. The vertiports can be redeployed to other areas making it convenient for events, disaster relief or rescue efforts.