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Stuttgart. I’m standing on the hill where the Mercedes-Benz Museum is located. The Volocopter has just landed after completing its first flight in a European city. Thousands of people are standing around me and cheering. What a feeling! The bicycle, the motorcycle, and the automobile were all invented here in the state of Baden-Württemberg. And they were joined in 2011 by the flying taxi known as the Volocopter.
Baden-Württemberg — the cradle of mobility. This is where I grew up — in the state where, more than anywhere else, the history of mobility has been written and will continue to be written in the future. By the Volocopter — and electrically powered.
What advantages does the Volocopter have compared to helicopters?
It’s easy to explain the difference between it and conventional helicopters. Technically, the Volocopter operates similarly to a drone. It’s much quieter than a helicopter, requires less maintenance, and operates fully electrically. As a result, it generates no emissions whatsoever during its flights.
The Volocopter has been designed for local travel in urban areas. Global urbanization is an irreversible trend. By 2050, two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities (Source: statista). Meanwhile, the number of kilometers traveled per person is steadily growing. Conventional means of transportation in urban areas are reaching their limits. This is resulting in chaotic traffic conditions and gridlock. That’s happening here in Stuttgart as well. Our goal is to use the Volocopter to give urban mobility a lift — into the third dimension. Volocopters can be specifically deployed on selected routes as flying taxis.
The goal: Expanding mobility for large segments of society
Flying directly to one’s destination should no longer be the exclusive privilege of a few superrich people. Instead, it should be an appropriate way to expand mobility for large segments of society on selected routes. It makes sense to use Volocopters in situations where the advantages of three-dimensional transport come into play and lots of time can be saved — for example, if a route crosses a river, lake, mountain or site of chronic congestion. That way, air taxis can play an important role in solving problems in urban regions. They can once again give people more freedom of movement.
Our “electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft” (eVTOL) has been designed as a two-seater. We have evaluated numerous studies, and in the vast majority of use cases two seats are sufficient. In most taxi rides as well, there’s only one passenger. Besides, the more lightweight an aircraft is, the better is its balance and the more quietly it runs.
All of the flight-critical safety systems are installed as multiply redundant equipment. Although the Volocopter resembles a helicopter in its external appearance, its technology is much closer to that of a drone. The 18 rotors are the most visible parts of our Volocopter’s safety concept. All of the flight-critical safety systems are installed as multiply redundant equipment. They ensure that the Volocopter is as safe as a conventional passenger airplane, but also quieter and more efficient. And it doesn’t need any space-consuming runways.
Who’s the ideal partner? Lab 1886 – the Daimler innovation area
Daimler AG has been one of our shareholders and partners for many years. It’s a true pioneer of mobility. Just like us.
Both of our companies are convinced that sustainability, comfort, and individual freedom can all go hand in hand. Because we want to relieve the pressure on urban traffic in a practical way, we are striving to produce large numbers of Volocopters.
We are young company, and we want to develop and to achieve economies of scale. Daimler has more than 130 years of experience with the production of complex products all over the world — and that’s a huge advantage.
Sustainability and individual freedom are not mutually exclusive.
For both emotional and rational reasons, Daimler is an ideal partner with whom we can make flying taxis a reality in cities all over the world. Both of our companies are committed to mobility as a service, electric mobility, and sustainability. Consequently, there are many areas, such as the electric drivetrain, where we can work together.
- The Volocopter company already has a preliminary Certificate of Airworthiness that authorizes it to operate manned flights in air traffic in Germany.
- That makes Volocopter the world’s first and only company to have a preliminary Certificate of Airworthiness for manned multicopters. The Volocopter is a safe, all-electric vertical-takeoff aircraft that seats two people. That’s why it has the potential to be the flying taxi of the future.
- The Volocopter is extremely quiet: The 18 rotors operate in a narrow acoustic frequency band, and to human ears they sound only about twice as loud as a single rotor. By contrast, a helicopter is many times louder because of its main and tail rotors and its turbine. By way of comparison, at a distance of 75 meters, a Volocopter 2X is already as quiet as the smallest helicopter at a distance of 500 meters (65 dB(A)). In other words, it’s seven times quieter.
- 18 quiet rotors, extremely simple one-hand control via a control stick, and maximum failure safety thanks to redundant design: no combustion engine, no noise, no complicated mechanical systems. Simply step in, take off, and arrive relaxed.
- The top speed is 100 km/h. The optimal speed for achieving the maximum range is 70 km/h.
Outlook: Reaching market readiness in the next three years
Just last week we acquired a new partner: the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely Holding). We want to work together to refine urban air mobility and also to take it to China. In the first step, we will concentrate entirely on receiving a permit for our newest flying taxi model, the VoloCity. That will happen in the next three years or so.
All of us are at the starting line — the aircraft and the infrastructure on the ground, which will consist of conventional helipads and VoloPorts (charging infrastructures for major cities). In addition, we’re already working on the integration of the VoloCity into the air traffic control system for the airspace. We recently flew at Helsinki Airport — fully integrated into the airport’s operation with the big airliners.
A research study: Is the project accepted by the public?
As I watch the flight of the Volocopter in front of the Museum here in Stuttgart, I realize that for most people this is still an unusual sight. However, flying taxis will soon be part of our daily lives. It makes me think of the early phase of automobile travel, when people were afraid of the new machines and, to ensure safety, a man waving a red flag had to run in front of the car to announce the arrival of this extraordinary means of transportation. Fortunately, today we seem to be more open to innovation — both as a society and in the cooperation with the corresponding institutions and authorities.
This can be seen, for example, in the willingness of the people watching the flight to fill out the questionnaire created by the HFT Stuttgart. More than a thousand of these questionnaires on the research theme “Acceptance of Flying Taxis by the Public” were soon filled out. All of us are looking forward to seeing the results.
I’m convinced that by means of new technologies we can achieve individualized sustainability. Through the Volocopter I hope to make a small contribution to the improvement of our mobility, without losing sight of the need to make our actions beneficial to our grandchildren. I’m aiming to help create a sustainable and attractive future.
As the cheers of the spectators on the Museum’s hill die down, I look at the faces of the people around me. Daimler CEO Ola Källenius is nodding approvingly, and Winfried Kretschmann, the Minister President of Baden-Württemberg, remarks with a smile, “I have the feeling that this thing is going places!” (Video FAZ)
So let’s get moving!