Volocopter GmbH was founded in 2011 in Karlsruhe, Germany by Alexander Zosel and Stephen Wolf with the intent of making an electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) multicopter aircraft for fast and efficient urban travel. The company was known as “e-volo GmbH” until July 2017 and its name is now Volocopter GmbH. Volocopter announced in February 2020 that it had raised a total of €122 million (approx. $145M USD) since inception.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the first manned flight of an electric multicopter was the Volocopter VC1 prototype. The VC1 multicopter was flown by co-founder, primary designer, inventor and builder, Thomas Senkel on Oct. 21, 2011.
Currently based in Bruschal, Germany, the company has created the Volocopter VC1, VC2, VC200 and 2X flying prototypes and as of November 2019, these prototypes have collectively made over 1,000 test flights. The most recent Volocopter model is the VoloCity eVTOL multicopter aircraft which serves as the company’s first production model.
On Sept. 16, 2020, Volocopter announced it was taking reservations for demonstration flights:
Be one of the very first people to take a ride with the VoloCity Air Taxi. Flying over a city with an electrically powered air taxi is not a far-off dream anymore. VoloCity, the first-to-fly certified Air Taxi will take off to its first mission within 2 to 3 years. You have the exclusive opportunity to reserve one of the first piloted rides!
— Volocopter website, Sept. 16, 2020
In late September 2020, Volocopter announced its participation in the Paris Region, Groupe ADP and RATP Groupe's efforts to integrate UAM into existing transportation infrastructure. Volocopter is one of the earliest prospective partners and the first vehicle developer involved in the initiative. The company is poised to use the Pointoise Airfield's dedicated testing area, currently in planning, to perform test flights of the Volocity production model.
The 4th generation eVTOL VoloCity multicopter aircraft has been redesigned with notable changes such a more modern and streamlined airframe with wrap around windows, newly designed and lowered landing skids making entry and exit from the aircraft easier, more aerodynamic propeller support beams, new housings within the beam structure which protect the electric motors, the addition of a rear stabilizer for increased lift and stability during forward flight, and increased the redundancy in critical systems.
The VoloCity has 18 small fixed-pitched propellers and 18 electric motors on top the beam structure which keeps the aircraft noise to a minimum making a quiet and pleasant warm sound, according to the company, and hovering at 75 meters has a sound of only 65 dB(A). Flight control is made by varying the speed of each 18 propellers independently.
The eVTOL aircraft can fly at speeds 100 km/h (62 mph) with a range of 35 km (~22 miles). The batteries can be changed-out in about 5 minutes which drastically reduces turnaround times and allows for almost continuous service of the aircraft. The company plans to manufacture the aircraft, operate the taxi service, create an app for its customers, build the Voloports throughout urban areas for safe take-offs and landings and include international airports as debarking and destination points. The company has stated they will not be selling the aircraft to consumers.
The mission of the urban air taxi is to transport passengers and luggage from point A to B within a defined urban metropolitan area at a price that is competitive with alternative transportation modes.
Safety & Certification: Urban air taxis need to be as safe as any other commercial aircraft and consequently be designed to meet equivalent safety standards.
Noise Emissions: In order to fly in the city and take-off/land in populated areas, the urban air taxi will have to comply with demanding noise restrictions to achieve public acceptance.
Range & Speed: The air taxi needs to be able to cover the most popular high-traffic routes in major cities, like the airport to city-center route. These trips should be covered at a reasonably high speed in order to save time compared to ground transportation alternatives.
Operating Costs: To enable a viable and scalable business that addresses a meaningful customer base, air taxi operating costs should be low enough to offer competitively-priced transportation services.
Number of Seats: The number of passenger seats is a key design driver and needs to match the needs of the urban air taxi mission.
Design for Usability: Passengers need to be able to embark, travel, and disembark comfortably and safely. This will entail design requirements for cabin noise levels, vibration, climatic conditioning, perceived safety, etc.
— White Paper: Pioneering The Urban Air Taxi Revolution, 1.0, Volocopter, Jun. 6, 2019
Volocopter views that safety and simplicity are closely related and that simplicity will also aid new eVTOL aircraft in the certification process. The fixed-pitched propellers have no tilting mechanisms and the flight computer independently changes the speed of each motor to achieve take-offs, forward flight and landings. This type of flight architecture makes the aircraft more simplified and robust. In the event of any motor failures, the aircraft can fly and land safely with only twelve (12) motors working. Volocopter has multi-redundant systems including propellers, motors, batteries, electronics, displays and more, to ensure the highest degree of reliability and safety.
VoloCity has been designed to comply with the airworthiness requirements and noise restrictions for intra-city commercial air transportation and not as a daily work commuter aircraft. VoloCity can service 93% of the world’s largest cities for transportation to international airports and other daily intra-city air taxi trips efficiently, safe and fast which can’t be accomplished by ground transportation.
Volocopter has reported their eVTOL aircraft when hovering at 75 meters (246 ft) has a noise level of 65 dB(A). A helicopter with large rotors make more noise, while smaller propellers have slower tip speeds which reduces noise coming from the propeller tips. Stated another way, the company has said that multiple weak propeller sound sources spread the noise over a broad frequency spectrum, which is less disturbing to the human ear than one large noise source. Volocopter says their eVTOL air taxi has such reduced noise, and does not add to the present noise pollution of large megacities.
Range and Speed
Volocopter recognizes the Uber Elevate white paper suggesting that urban air taxis will mainly be used by so-called “mega commuters,” or people who commute more than 160 km (99 miles) per day. However, Volocopter takes a different view because there are a multitude of urban air taxi use cases that exist globally. The company says many time-saving trips can be operated more efficiently and economically with limited infrastructure for much shorter ranges. Examples include consumers needing air taxi service to airports, train stations, hotels, business offices, shopping malls and other personal use.
Instead of Volocopter focusing on an aircraft made strictly for daily commutes to work, they are focusing on shuttling passengers for a wide variety of inner-city air taxi missions. Volocopter’s research shows that inner-city air taxi service will have the highest demand than commuter trips and will therefore be the most profitable source of urban air travel.
Volocopter stresses that non-pitched rotors, electric motors, fixed landing skids, carbon composite airframe, and the low cost of electricity will keep costs exceptionally low for the passenger. By keeping their aircraft as simplified as possible, increases the reliability of the aircraft, lowers the cost of manufacturing the aircraft, keeps the annual maintenance to a minimum, and keeps operating costs to a minimum which translates to a reduced cost for the passenger.
VoloCity’s usability can be seen from the airframe’s design for ease of entry and exit from the aircraft, to using more than 100 microprocessors to ensure perfect stability and control of the aircraft during vertical ascent, decent or cruise flight with an intuitively controlled control stick. If the control stick is released by the pilot, the aircraft will automatically hold its current position. Since batteries can easily be changed out between flights, each flight can use fully charged batteries allowing for the full flight range of the aircraft including an emergency reserve and no emissions.
Air Taxi Service
Volocopter will be manufacturing the aircraft, running the air taxi service, building Voloports, allow passengers to request a flight through an app, will not be selling their aircraft to individuals and will offer air taxi urban travel at competitive prices. VoloCity has the capacity for one pilot, one passenger and their luggage, and in the future expects to operate their eVTOL aircraft autonomously. The company has been in talks with several cities around the world and expects to have their service up and running in the next several years. Volocopter states the VoloCity eVTOL will be their first commercially approved aircraft.
Aviation International News Online reported that Volocopter announced in January 2021 that it is seeking to bring air taxi services to the USA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has accepted their application, in December 2020, to start the process for the FAA to certify their aircraft. It could take two to three years for the FAA to certify their aircraft. Aviation International News Online, also stated that the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is finalizing the certification of the Volocopter aircraft at this time.
It was reported in March 2021, that Volocopter expects the VoloCity to be the first eVTOL providing air taxi service over the competition. Volocopter's reason why they think their competitor's eVTOL aircraft will be delayed into service is due to several reasons: Having more complicated technology will delay certification by government authorities and manufacturing complex eVTOL aircraft take longer getting their aircraft into service. Volocopter has stated their eVTOL multicopter is much less complex and will be ready to provide air taxi service many years before their competitors can provide air taxi service.
2nd Volocopter White Paper
On March 24, 2021, Volocopter released their 2nd White Paper titled, "The roadmap to scalable urban air mobility." Quoting from Volocopter's White Paper, "It's true, we developed a revolutionary aircraft. But in fact, we launched the creation of an entire industry."
In its 2nd White Paper, Volocopter reveals they want to build a scalable air taxi and cargo service in lower airspace which can be used in any city by starting small and then expanding their services. In addition, the best way to provide scalable air taxi service, is to increase the service using automation, over time. The company foresees using multiple partners for landing pads, manufacturing companies, repair stations, air traffic agencies, local governments, super app companies and things of this nature to lower the cost and risk of entry into the new Urban Air Mobility market.
Volocopter points out in the paper that to provide genuine time savings for the customer, vertiports will need to be in strategic locations to keep the amount of travel time to a minimum, from the customers home or office, to justify the cost of Urban Air Mobility. In addition, Volocopter indicates they want to eventually use a super app that can schedule multiple transportation modes (such as Volocopter's air taxi service, car ride sharing, scooters, rental bikes, trains and airline reservations) to allow the traveler to have an easier time switching between ground and air transportation companies. In addition, studies show that most ride sharing has one to two passengers which is why the Volocopter was designed to carry two passengers.
In the White Paper, the company reiterates its goal of providing air taxi service that is safe, clean, sustainable, fast, convenient, reliable, rapidly deployed, with low noise, a multimodal connectivity (uses an app that connects passengers to multiple forms of transportation), local workforce development (for maintenance and crews of vertiports and aircraft), low maintenance infrastructure, and increasing scalability based on the market demand in any city they offer their air taxi service. The air taxi service will begin with piloted Volocopters and will eventually be fully autonomous aircraft.
Volocopter has restated in their 2021 White Paper, that for Urban Air Mobility to be completely safe the aircraft needs to be resilient to failures. The Volocopter has this built in by using 18 propellers and 18 individual electric motors, so that if several propellers stop working, the aircraft can still land safely. In addition, the company has taken away as many moving parts as possible, such as not using tilt-rotors, reducing the potential of failure because they are not using complicated mechanical systems in their aircraft. The first cities Volocopter plans to launch air taxi service will be Singapore and Paris.
- Aircraft type: eVTOL multicopter
- Pilot: 1
- Passengers: 1 plus luggage
- Future autonomous mode: 2 passengers, luggage and no pilot
- Certification goal: EASA SC-VTOL, category enhanced
- Cruise speed: ~90 km/h (~56 mph)
- Maximum airspeed: 110 km/h (68 mph)
- Range: 35-65 km (22-40 m)
- Maximum take-off mass (MTOM): 900 kg (1,984 lb)
- Maximum payload: 200 kg (441 lb)
- Operating weight empty (OWE): 700 kg (1,543 lb)
- Rotors: 18 fixed-pitch rotors
- Motors: 18 brushless DC electric motor (BLDC)
- Power source: Lithium-ion battery packs
- Battery system: Exchangeable rechargeable battery packs
- Battery swapping time: 5 minutes
- Fuselage: Composite carbon fiber
- Overall height: 2.5 m (8 ft, 2 in)
- Diameter of the rotor rim including rotors: 11.3 m (37 ft)
- Diameter of the rotor rim excluding rotors: 9.3 m (30 ft, 6 in)
- Diameter of a single rotor: 2.3 m (7 ft, 6 in)
- Noise emissions: At 75 meters (246 ft), 65 dB(A)
- Windows: Wrap around windows providing passengers with spectacular views
- Landing gear: Skid type
- Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers and motors on the aircraft so if one or more motors or propellers fail, the other working motors and propellers can safely land the aircraft. Redundancy in computer software, electronic equipment, batteries, propellers, and more. The propellers are above aircraft keeping them safely away from people hitting them with their heads. Aircraft can still fly safety with 12 rotors working.
For more information on the other aircraft developed by Volocopter, please see the following Electric VTOL News aircraft pages:
- Volocopter website
- Volocopter Facebook
- Volocopter Twitter
- Volocopter YouTube
- Volocopter Wikipedia
- Article: Manned maiden flight writes aviation history, Volocopter, Oct. 2011
- Article: Photos: The Rise of the Volocopter, Smithsonian Magazine, Mar. 2014
- Article: The Volocopter receives a certificate of airworthiness, Volocopter, Mar. 2016
- Article: World premier: Volocopter is flying manned! - A step forward in urban mobility, Volocopter, Apr. 2016
- Article: First ever public demonstration of an autonomous urban air taxi, Volocopter, Sept. 25, 2017
- Article: Intel CEO Brian Krzani first passenger on Volocopter, Volocopter, Jan. 8, 2018
- Video: Infrastructure to Integrate Air Taxi Services in Cities, Volocopter, Apr. 17, 2018
- Article: Volocopter presents air taxi services at scale, Volocopter, Apr. 17, 2018
- White Paper: Pioneering The Urban Air Taxi Revolution, 1.0, Volocopter, Jun. 6, 2019
- Article: Mobility of the Future: Fraport and Volocopter Are Developing Airport Infrastructure and Passenger Processes for Air Taxi Services, Volocopter, Feb. 12, 2019
- Article: Volocopter reveals design for new Urban Air Mobility aircraft VoloCity to become first commercial Volocopter aircraft, Volocopter, Aug. 21, 2019
- Video: Volocopter: Pioneers with 8 years testing experience, Volocopter, Aug. 21, 2019
- Article: Volocopter Unveils VoloCity, Its First Production eVTOL, Aviation International News Online, Aug. 21, 2019
- Video: First Air Taxi Drone Flying at International Airport, Volocopter, Aug. 29, 2019
- Article: Successful integration of piloted air taxi into Air Traffic Management / UTM system, Volocopter, Aug. 30, 2019
- Article: Stuttgart sees first urban flight of Volocopter in Europe, Volocopter, Sept. 9, 2019
- Video: Volocopter flies for the first time in a European city, Volocopter, Sept. 18, 2019
- Article: World’s First Full-Scale Air Taxi VoloPort Unveiled in Singapore, Volocopter, Oct. 21, 2019
- Article: DB Schenker invests as Volocopter extends Series C Round to € 87 million, Volocopter, Feb. 21, 2020
- Article: Volocopter now accepting reservations for air taxi demo flights, eVTOL, Sept. 16, 2020
- Video: VoloIQ: Setting the Bar for Air Operations Excellence and a Seamless Journey, Volocopter, Nov. 19, 2020
- Article: Volocopter Launches Campaign to Bring Electric Air Taxi Services to U.S. Cities, Volocopter, Jan. 15, 2021
- Article: Volocopter Moves To Enter U.S. eVTOL Air Taxi Market, Aviation International News Online, Jan. 15, 2021
- Article: Two years out from air taxi service, Volocopter raises $240 million Series D, eVTOL Magazine, Mar. 3, 2021
- Article: Volocopter’s roadmap to scaled urban air mobility focuses on strong partnerships, eVTOL Magazine, Mar. 24, 2021
- Article: Volocopter releases second White Paper on Urban Air Mobility, says strong partnerships vital for introducing air taxi services into cities, eVTOL Insights, Mar. 25, 2021