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Volocopter VoloCity VC 2-1

 

VoloCity VC 2-1
Volocopter GmbH
Bruschal, Germany
www.volocopter.com

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

According to the Volocopter Reservation Agreement, Terms of Use, "The Company plans to launch first commercial flights within the next 2 to 3 years, meaning towards the end of 2022 or during the course of 2023 with its VoloCity VC 2-1 aircraft (the “Aircraft”) based on the expectation to receive a type certificate from the European Aviation Safety Agency (“EASA”) in due course." Later it specifies: "The Flight Program shall take place within the next 3 calendar years, with the earliest possible date expected to be December 2022."

Design

The 4th generation VoloCity 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

Safety 

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.

Noise Emissions

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.

Operating Costs

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.

Design Usability

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.

Summary

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 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.

For more information on the other aircraft developed by Volocopter, please see the following aircraft pages:

Specifications:

  • Aircraft type: All electric vertical take-off and landing multicopter
  • Pilot: 1
  • Passengers: 1 plus luggage
  • Future autonomous mode: 2 passengers, luggage and no pilot
  • Certification goal: EASA SC-VTOL, category enhanced
  • Power type: Electric / batteries
  • Maximum take-off mass (MTOM): 900 kg (1,984 lbs)
  • Maximum payload: 200 kg (441 lbs)
  • Operating weight empty (OWE): 700 kg (1,543 lbs)
  • Range: 35 km (22 miles)
  • Cruise speed: 100 km/h (62 mph)
  • Maximum Airspeed: 110 km/h (68 mph)
  • Rotors: 18 fixed-pitch rotors
  • Motors: 18 brushless DC electric motor (BLDC)
  • Power supply: 9 battery packs
  • Battery type: Lithium-ion
  • Battery system: Exchangeable rechargeable battery packs
  • Battery swapping time: 5 minutes
  • Fuselage: Composite
  • 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: 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.

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