An interview with Christian Bauer, CCO Volocopter
Volocopter, the air taxi startup, started revolutionizing the aviation industry in 2011, with the worldwide first manned flight of an electrically powered aircraft. The company goal is to become the leading Urban Air Mobility service provider worldwide. With their innovative technology, products, and services, they will support cities in sustainably transforming their mobility concepts.
Christian, thank you for this interview. Could you please share with the audience some info about the company? How it all begin, come to life and developed into a full concept that Volocopter represents today? I am talking about the full eco-system developed around the project: VoloCity, Volodrone, VoloIQ and Voloport and the purpose of the innovative machine…
It all began with our founder Stephan Wolf, who had bought a toy drone in 2010. He was fascinated by how easy it was to fly and wanted to scale it up to carry a person. A year later, we made history with the world’s first manned electric multicopter flight in 2011. Shortly afterwards, we turned a yoga ball drone configuration into a full-fledged eVTOL aircraft. As we continued to trial and learn with our aircraft, we realized that what we were really doing was pioneering the way for a complete urban air mobility (UAM) ecosystem with which cities would maximize the potential electric flight has to offer.
So, we took an idea that worked and continued to expand it. We started developing the VoloCity for passenger flights. Parallel to that, we began developing our electric heavy-cargo VoloDrone to benefit the logistics industry. And where we found knowledge gaps, we filled them with amazing expert partnerships in the industry, like Skyports for VoloPorts and DB Schenker for VoloDrone development. Now, we are working to benefit the entire aviation industry by developing a digital backbone for UAM, VoloIQ, to connect all of these products, their services, and more within the UAM ecosystem. By proactively thinking about the bigger picture for UAM, Volocopter has stood out for its holistic, partnership approach as we prepare for commercial launch within the next 2 years.
Recently Volocopter invited people to register and have the opportunity to be the first ones to ride a Volocity Air Taxi…tickets were sold fast, and this shows the great interest of peoples in the project…How it will look a flight with VoloCity Air Taxi? Walk us, please, through, from taking off to the landing moment.
Volocopter’s goal is to provide emission-free, seamless, safe journeys for all of our passengers.
Our passengers will be able to book the entire journey on their app, supported by VoloIQ, to go from one place to another in a convenient, predictable way. We are partnering with companies like Grab to integrate our VoloCity air taxi with the existing mobility offers in a given city. In short, our customers will be able to comfortably get to the VoloPort, fly with the VoloCity, and enjoy the view on their way to their destination.
What are the performances in terms of autonomy, speed, altitude and payload of VoloCity? Can it fly in any weather conditions?
Our VoloCity is designed to fly both piloted and autonomously, can carry 2 passengers with hand luggage, and can fly 110 km/h with a range of up to 35 km and a payload of 200 kg. We have very strict restrictions for weather, as many other commercial aircraft do. So, if it is not safe to fly, we will not risk it. Our passengers’ safety is the number one priority for these services.
Part of the eco-system Volocopter is developing, is the infrastructure…one of your “out of the box” project was the cooperation with Skyports and the first passenger vertiport prototype build and operational in Singapore…what is a vertiport, and what problems will be solved with reference to city transportation?
In the simplest of terms, a VoloPort is an airport for an electric air taxi, like the VoloCity, except these VoloPorts can be built in existing urban infrastructures like tops of buildings or within airports. With this, VoloPorts will save on space and time for implementation while maximizing mobility. By strategically placing these VoloPorts in a city, we will create a mobility network that helps people get to their final destinations within the city an efficient way. At the same time, they will also be comfortable areas to board onto the VoloCity flights.
How does Volocopter intend to establish partnerships to build the ground infrastructure and prepare to provide commercial flights? When will we see the first commercial flight?
We expect to see the first commercial flights within the next 2 years, and we are partnering with experts like DB Schenker, Lufthansa Industry Solutions, SkyPorts, Geely, and local authorities in each city to make sure the right components for the UAM ecosystem are in place for launch. This means that we are combining the best of the best in expertise to provide the best solution for your city. Take Singapore and Paris, for example. These are two very unique, yet different cities. So, we are working with the partners on the ground there to ensure that we are offering a service that people in city will actually benefit from. This is our approach to partnerships and bringing urban air mobility to life with them.
What’s next and how far are you, in terms of technology milestones to the development of a fully commercialized urban air taxi?
We are already very far along with our fifth generation aircraft, the VoloCity. The next step for us is putting our latest 200 million euro fundraising round to work by achieving type certification (TC) from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to launch our commercial VoloCity services along with concurrent validation from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In the long-term with technology, we expect autonomy to play an additional pivotal role in scaling operations and lowering ticket prices. We are designing our products to be adaptable when the official regulations for autonomous flight in cities are addressed and approved.
From the project stage to the operational stage, this project involves a huge effort, which must be supported financially, logistically, technologically …. who are your partners in this venture?
You are correct. This is a team effort to bring urban air mobility to life. We celebrated our latest fundraising signing with 200 million euros from great investors like funds managed by BlackRock, Avala Capital, Atlantia S.p.A., Continental AG, NTT, and Tokyo Century amongst others, as well as from our long-standing investors.
We have partnered with experts in the industry like DB Schenker for our VoloDrone, Lufthansa Industry Solutions for VoloIQ, large airport operators like Aéroports de Paris and Fraport, as well as the cities and regulators themselves to get this industry up off the ground, and I think we have a bright future ahead of us with this approach.
Safety comes first when talking about aviation industry, and for sure for UAM. Could you please let me know updates regarding the progress on certification work with EASA, or other entities involved in this process of flight accreditation?
Aviation is one of the most tightly regulated industries – and rightfully so.
The EASA has published the first certification baseline for electric air taxis. It is called SC-VTOL. They are leading the regulation development worldwide and cooperation with other agencies to ensure global collaboration.
As the first and only eVTOL company to have achieved Design Organisation Approval (DOA) from the EASA, we have shown in the past, and continue to show, the progress we make with developing our VoloCity to meet the highest levels of safety in a transparent matter.
According to our timeline, we expect the VoloCity to have all the certifications it needs within the next two years as we prepare for commercial launch. After achieving type certification (TC) for commercial launch, we are already positioned for concurrent TC verification by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
How do you see the future of mobility?
The future of mobility is bright and electric with a focus on the customer to allow for seamless traveling. We will be in the air sooner than you think, and UAM will substantially change the way people move about their cities.
What’s next for Volocopter, what are the company plans for the future in terms of technology, products and partnerships?
As mentioned before, we are bringing our technology, ecosystem, and customer services to life. In short, we’re getting ready for take-off in a lot of areas.
- Top 3 challenges in developing and operational launch?
- Educating the public about this new technology – acceptance is key;
- Commitment from cities to introduce these services. This is new to them as well;
- Hiring the best talent worldwide.
- Top 3 advantages to use this technology?
- It is:
- an incredibly safe form of travel;
- an incredibly efficient form of travel;
- It combines time savings with sustainable solutions.
- It is:
- Top 3 countries interested to support the operation launch?
- We have already committed to launch our services in the cities Singapore and Paris, and our door is always open for more interested candidates.