They aren’t quite like George Jetson’s space car in The Jetsons, but flying zero-emission electric taxis could soon be seen in big cities around the world.
Volocopter — a German company leading the way among manufacturers of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOLs) aircraft — has even announced an ambitious plan to be the supplier of a fleet of electric flying taxis being used in Paris next year.
“We are counting down the days to making electric air taxis a reality,” Dirk Hoke, CEO of Volocopter and a former top executive at aerospace giant Airbus, said in a statement. “Together with our French partners, we will take command in decarbonizing aviation, slowly but surely.”
While Volocopter still faces a number of challenges, including gaining regulatory approval and convincing consumers its aircraft are safe, the plan is for its flying taxis to be in use when Paris hosts the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer.
“The Olympics are our North Star,” Hoke said, according to Reuters.
What’s An Air Taxi?
Volocopter isn’t the only company rushing to develop the technology necessary for safe electric air taxis and the network of infrastructure necessary to support the aircraft as they fly around a busy metro area. It is, however, ahead of competitors in many respects.
For instance, the company completed its first crewed flight of an eVTOL aircraft in 2011. It also has had a preliminary license for piloted flight in Germany since 2016, which has allowed Volocopter to complete more than 1,000 test flights at its headquarters, Volocopter explains.
Secondly, although it conducts near-daily test flights in Germany, Volocopter has also successfully performed test flights in Dubai, Las Vegas, Helsinki, Stuttgart, Singapore, and, of course, Paris.
The air taxi, which can travel at a maximum speed of 68 miles per hour, is fitted with 18 independent rotors powered by the same number of motors. Those electric motors are powered by lithium batteries.
Proposed Routes In Paris
Volocopter, airport operator Groupe ADP, the French Civil Aviation Authority, and officials from the Paris region recently explained that — if all goes according to plan — Paris will be the first city to offer eVTOL services.
The group explained that the plan will begin with three connection routes and two tourist-oriented round-trip flights served by several aircraft.
The first connection route will be from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport to Paris-Le Bourget Airport. The second connection will be from a vertiport, which has passenger terminals and is where the aircraft take off and land, on a barge on the River Seine with the Paris Heliport. The final connection will be between Paris Heliport and the Airfield of Saint-Cyr-l’École in Versailles.
Meanwhile, the two round-trip flights for tourists will be from either the Paris Heliport or the Paris-Le Bourget Airport.
Each of the flights will be in VoloCity aircraft, which have the capacity for one pilot and one passenger. Those flights at altitudes of less than 1,650 feet will not be heard from the ground in urban environments.
“It will be a totally new experience for people,” Hoke said, according to the Associated Press.
“But 20 years later, someone looks back at what changed based on something new, and they then call it a revolution,” Hoke continued. “I think we are at the edge of the next revolution.”
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