German firm Daimler invests US$29 million in self-flying taxi innovator Volocopter
Volocopter – the German start-up behind the futuristic electric vertical take off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft – has received a total of around US$30 million from investors including Daimler and technology investment firm Lukasz Gadowski.
Funds will be used to support development of the vehicle, including the hiring of additional engineers, with a view to the company releasing production eVTOL models to market in 2018.
The Volocopter 2 is a two-seater VTOL vehicle which can transport two passengers autonomously, without the need for a pilot in the aircraft. 9 independent lithium-ion battery packs power individual 18 motors. the 9-pack system offers a charging time of between 40-120 minutes depending on available facilities. A fully charged aircraft should have an average flight time of 27 minutes – although batteries are also reportedly swappable, theoretically meaning the aircraft could take off within minutes of landing. The maximum airspeed it can reach is 62 miles per hour.
Commenting on the new investment, Volocopter managing director Florian Reuter stated: “The strong financial commitment of our new investors is a signal as well as proof of the growing confidence in the newly emerging market for electrically driven VTOLs put to use as personal air taxis. We deliberately sought a mix of investors with strategic and entrepreneurial backgrounds and were able to implement this perfectly with Daimler and Lukasz Gadowski”.
At the end of 2017, Dubai is set to be the first City to demonstrate Volocopter’s air taxis. Working alongside Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA) the aircrafts shall be tested and trialled. Dubai is aiming to have 25% of its passenger transportation to be fully autonomous by 2030.
So far, Volocopter has conducted around 100 unmanned tests of their aircrafts. In a steely demonstration, last year managing director Reuter became the first passenger to take part in a manned test.
There remains some doubt surrounding self-flying aircraft. The full range of obstacles is yet to become clear however birds are something to be considered. There is also the issue that there is no one inside an aircraft with the passengers to ensure their safety this would also make emergency landings tricky. While driverless cars have been developed over many years, they have only recently been tested on roads. However, some cars are still being taken off the roads with problems. It makes you think what problems could possibly arise when hundreds of feet up in the air? This is something yet to be seen in the coming years.
That said, eVTOL is certainly the next big challenge for the aviation industry. challenge for the aviation industry. Developmenyts are being made not only by Volocopter, but by Aeromobil, Kitty Hawk, Airbus, Uber and many others. ElecTrans previously covered the Uber Elevate programme and its goal of delivering 50 aircraft for testing by 2020 – so the race is on to see which company can get commercial eVTOL off the ground first.