John Deere and Volocopter GmbH are collaborating on a heavy-lift utility drone for agriculture. A demonstrator model of the VoloDrone equipped with a John Deere crop protection sprayer, which had made tethered flights, was presented on Nov. 10–16 in Hanover, Germany, at the AGRITECHNICA trade show. With a potential payload of 440 lb (200 kg) and a maximum range of 25 miles (40 km), Volcopter said “the VoloDrone is able to cover an enormous area, especially under difficult operating conditions.” The VoloDrone is powered by 18 rotors with an overall diameter of 30.2 ft (9.2 m), and features a fully electric drive using exchangeable lithium-ion batteries. One battery charge allows a flight time of up to 30 minutes, and the VoloDrone can be operated remotely or automatically on a programmed route.
Meanwhile, Volocopter also announced in December that it had gained Design Organisation Approval (DOA) from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). “Volocopter is the first eVTOL startup on record to receive DOA,” the company said. Patrick Ky, Executive Director of EASA, noted that “Awarding the first DOA with a scope of work for VTOL is a milestone for the industry. We are happy about the successful cooperation and the fact that our safety standards are now part of the rising eVTOL market.”
On Sept. 14–15, more than 12,000 spectators saw the flights of the Volcopter 2X unmanned air taxi at the Mercedes- Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. The Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart conducted a survey and, among other findings, the 1,200 survey participants responded that the eVTOL was quieter than expected and 84% would support the air taxi service in the city.