NEOM and Volocopter: First Electric Air Taxi Flight in Saudi Arabia
NEOM, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 21 June 2023 – NEOM, the smart and sustainable regional development in northwest Saudi Arabia, and Volocopter, the pioneer of urban air mobility (UAM), announced today the successful completion of a series of air taxi test flights. This marks the first time an eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft has received a special flight authorization and performed test flights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The flight test campaign lasted over a week and built on 18 months of collaboration between NEOM, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), and Volocopter, with the aim of implementing and scaling an electric UAM ecosystem and testbed in NEOM. The parties worked closely to ensure full regulatory compliance and safety ahead of the test campaign.Urban air mobility is a new form of sustainable aviation that will provide regions and cities with an additional form of transportation. Groupe ADP and Volocopter have collaborated to bring UAM to Paris, conducting flight tests with new electric air taxis, or eVTOLs at the Pontoise testbed, and bringing all regulators and stakeholders together since 2020.
Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM, said:
His Excellency, Abdulaziz A. Al-Duailej, President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, said:
“This safe and successful test flight represents an important milestone of the Saudi aviation sector and another steady step towards achieving the aviation sector’s strategy, through innovation and employing emerging technologies to create new industries that contribute to the output GDP and create more jobs. It also confirms GACA’s commitment to enabling the safe integration of innovative air transport patterns that improve the mobility experience of individuals in urban areas and the quality of life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
NEOM and Volocopter share a joint vision of creating a better future through innovative, clean technology. As part of a multimodal transportation system, electric air mobility reflects NEOM’s ambition to revolutionize mobility and transform people’s lives. In 2021, NEOM and Volocopter founded a joint venture to scale advanced air mobility, positioning NEOM as a collaborative, global living lab for the future of transportation.
Christian Bauer, Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Volocopter, said:
“It is beyond exciting to see our work from the past 18 months come to fruition. As the first eVTOL aircraft to ever test in Saudi Arabia, we are proud to have lain the groundwork for our future collaboration here in NEOM.”
The test campaign focused on the flight performance of the Volocopter aircraft in local climate and environmental conditions, as well as testing its integration into the local unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) system.
Volocopter eVTOLs will be key to NEOM’s smart and sustainable multimodal mobility system, which will be powered by 100% renewable energy generated by solar and wind energy sources. They will be used in a variety of roles, including as air taxis and emergency response vehicles, and are quieter, more easily adaptable, and cheaper to operate than the helicopters often employed today. They have a smaller on-ground infrastructure footprint, fewer operating restrictions, and employ smart and autonomous capabilities that ensure both safety and sustained relevance in future contexts.
The test flight announcement builds on NEOM’s EUR 175 million investment and joint venture with Volocopter and positions NEOM as a leader in future mobility solutions. Volocopter expects to obtain type certification for its VoloCity air taxi in 2024, enabling future commercial operations. Volocopter recently announced the commencement of VoloCity serial production at its facilities in Bruchsal, Germany, with a capacity to deliver more than 50 aircraft a year.
About NEOM – NEOM is an accelerator of human progress and a vision of what a New Future might look like. It is a region in northwest Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea being built from the ground up as a living laboratory – a place where entrepreneurship will chart the course for this New Future. It will be a destination and a home for people who dream big and want to be part of building a new model for exceptional livability, creating thriving businesses and reinventing environmental conservation.
NEOM will be the home and workplace to more than a million residents from around the world. It will include hyperconnected, cognitive towns and cities, ports and enterprise zones, research centers, sports and entertainment venues, and tourist destinations. As a hub for innovation, entrepreneurs, business leaders and companies will come to research, incubate, and commercialize new technologies and enterprises in groundbreaking ways. Residents of NEOM will embody an international ethos and embrace a culture of exploration, risk-taking and diversity – all supported by a progressive law compatible with international norms and conducive to economic growth.
About the Saudi Aviation Strategy and GACA – The Saudi Aviation Strategy is transforming the entire Saudi aviation ecosystem to become the number one aviation sector in the Middle East by 2030, enabled by Vision 2030 and in line with the Kingdom’s National Transport and Logistics Strategy.The Strategy is unlocking US$100 billion in private and government investment across the Kingdom’s airports, airlines and aviation support services. The Strategy will extend Saudi Arabia’s connectivity from 99 to more than 250 destinations across 29 airports, triple annual passenger traffic to 330 million, establish two global long-haul connecting hubs, and increase air cargo capacity to 4.5 million tons.
The Saudi Aviation Strategy is led by the Kingdom’s aviation regulator, the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA). GACA’s regulatory mission is to develop the air transport industry in accordance with the latest international standards, strengthen the position of the Kingdom as a globally influential player in civil aviation, and enforce the relevant rules, regulations and procedures to ensure air transport safety and security.
Volocopter brings urban air mobility (UAM) to megacities worldwide. We aim to improve the quality of life for people in cities by offering a fantastic new mode of transportation. For that, we create sustainable and scalable UAM ecosystems with partners in infrastructure and operations.
Volocopter’s family of eVTOL aircraft will offer passengers (VoloCity and VoloRegion) and goods (VoloDrone) swift, secure, and emission-free connections to their destinations, supported by VoloIQ, the UAM ecosystem’s software platform that serves as its digital backbone for safe and efficient operations.
As a pioneer in the UAM industry, Volocopter will launch commercial services within the next few years. Founded in 2011, the company employs more than 500 people in Germany and Singapore, has completed over 1,500 successful public and private test flights, and has diverse investors, including Geely, NEOM, Mercedes-Benz Group, Intel Capital, and BlackRock. www.volocopter.com