Joby, Volocopter And Lilium Are Making A Risky, Expensive Bet On Vertical Integration To Invent Urban Air Mobility
This article, written by Dean Donovan, was originally published on Forbes. Shared on TransportUP with permission. It’s official: Joby Aviation is buying Uber Elevate. The electric air taxi developer will integrate the Uber Elevate team into its core operation; Uber and Joby will expand their partnership to provide a seamless multi-modal experience and share data on how to provide the...
This article, written by Dean Donovan, was originally published on Forbes. Shared on TransportUP with permission.
It’s official: Joby Aviation is buying Uber Elevate. The electric air taxi developer will integrate the Uber Elevate team into its core operation; Uber and Joby will expand their partnership to provide a seamless multi-modal experience and share data on how to provide the right services to customers; and Uber will invest $75 million into Joby, which is on top of its previously undisclosed $50 million investment in Joby’s Series C financing round in January 2020.
This move should support Joby’s strategy of both building a new type of electric aircraft almost entirely in-house as well as operating an airline. Elevate should also give Joby unparalleled competitive and ecosystem intelligence into some of its competitors given that Elevate had engaged Hyundai, Pipistrel, Jaunt Air Mobility, Bell, Signature Flight Support and Chargepoint, among others, as partners in the aerial ride-sharing network that Uber had planned on building. Most industry observers believe that Uber Elevate has built a high-quality group that provides access to arguably the most well-thought through network planning effort in the industry. This could provide benefits in market selection, scale-up and asset utilization of an airline.
Joby is taking a different approach than exists today in most mobility related industries. Over the last few decades, truck and airplane manufacturers have tended to decrease their level of vertical integration to improve capital efficiency and utilize specialized skills developed in the supply chain. Joby is not alone in this break with the recent past. Lilium has also announced plans to forward integrate into air taxi service. Volocopter, the German autonomous aviation company, has launched an air taxi service called Volocity and is aiming to begin operations in Singapore. At the same time, other players in the air mobility space like Jaunt Air Mobility and Bye Aerospace have opted for a leaner, less vertically integrated approach. Will one approach trump the other?
This isn’t going to be cheap
New aircraft programs cost a lot of money to move through certification. On the commercial side of the market, a new narrow-body aircraft could cost $10 billion to $15 billion and can take 10 years or more to bring to market. At the Revolution Aero conference earlier this month, Lee Human of Aerotec, a leading consultancy in this space, suggested that vertically integrated eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) programs would likely require $3 billion to move through certification alone.
Technological innovation creates certification timing and cost risk. eVTOL aircraft will have systems that look fundamentally different than most of today’s small aircraft including, eventually, the provision for autonomous operation. The Eclipse 500, a program that pushed the edge of the technological envelope to pioneer the very light jet (VLJ) category, has become emblematic of the risks of a technology forward approach. The program started in 1998 and only received certification in mid-2006 partially due to a requirement to re-engine the aircraft mid-stream. The first deliveries came in 2007, almost 9 years after the start of the program. The company ultimately ran out of capital due to cost overruns associated with the delays and the 2008 recession.
Setting up a scale commercial carrier will add another layer of capital needs on top of the certification costs of the aircraft. JetBlue raised $128 million to finance its start-up with two planes, and Volaris, now the largest low-cost carrier in Mexico, raised a similar amount to start with four aircraft. However, new commercial operators have the advantage of a well-developed leasing market that allows them to finance new aircraft at attractive prices. They can also slot right into the existing commercial aviation airport infrastructure with limited initial capital investment.
Starting an eVTOL-based air taxi service at a similar scale could cost much more. Given the relatively small capacity of these new eVTOL aircraft (typically four seats or less), to have the same seat capacity as JetBlue or Volaris on start-up one of these new operations might need 70 to 140 aircraft. At $1 million per aircraft that would be $70 million to $140 million in acquisition costs. Given the unknown lifecycle of these new aircraft, financing that via an affordable leasing program seems unlikely. Aircraft acquisition only represents a part of the total expense, which will include start-up expenses, inventory, route development and other overhead costs. In addition, these air taxi services will need to find new investment for charging infrastructure, terminal infrastructure, maintenance facilities etc. Growing the model would require even more capital for aircraft and for developing new routes, which can take 9-12 months to ramp to profitability in commercial aviation.
Put this all together and it may take $4 billion or more to fully develop a vertically integrated business in the UAM space. That business case will come with potentially high variability in terms of timing and cost that investors will need to plan around. Of course, the rewards of pioneering what Morgan Stanley predicts could become a $1.5 trillion market could make those risks more than worthwhile.
Historical Precedents: “We are the Uber of Aviation…”
Elevate ensured that the UAM space lives in a giant shadow cast by the analogy of Uber’s auto ride-sharing model. Uber took a cottage industry, the taxi business, professionalized and modernized it. Ride-sharing models utilized a contract workforce that knows how to drive and brings its own assets. It took the suboptimal taxi user experience and improved it dramatically, while simultaneously reducing the cost of service significantly through smart network management. Not surprisingly, these factors led to the rapid growth of demand and an asset-light business model. It was expensive to build out, but the operating leverage is less than a model that has to buy or finance the assets it took to operate.
Uber tried to build a similar on-demand model for the world of aviation, where it quickly became clear that regulation, labor relations and asset ownership conditions will create a different, less favorable business model. Some companies have attempted ride-sharing style models in aviation and have run afoul of the FAA. Aviation requires a highly skilled workforce that tends to unionize and scales slowly. The low passenger to pilot ratio will create a pilot shortage if the UAM markets scale in a significant way. These potential bottlenecks have led most competitors to set autonomous operation goals to enable scalability and manage costs. Carriers must buy their own assets or lease them, if financing is available, and take responsibility for their operations. As a result, vertically integrated UAM carriers will have asset intensive operations.
While it may seem a departure today, aviation and aerospace were vertically integrated in the era where airmail contracts guaranteed significant volume at set pricing. Boeing purchased aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney in 1929 and had started United Airlines before subsequently growing it via merger. The guaranteed volumes and pricing from airmail contracts limited Boeing’s exposure to the high levels of operating leverage this strategy created. In fact, those guarantees were so lucrative they led to scandal and eventually the Airmail Act of 1934. That law prohibited aircraft manufacturers from owning airlines and forced Boeing to divest United Airlines and to the spin-out of what eventually became United Technologies (including Pratt and Whitney). Although regional aviation receives some Federal money via the Essential Air Service program, these tend to serve poorer rural areas, not the premium services wealthy urban areas the UAM companies plan to target initially. Unlike Boeing in the 1930s, today’s vertical integrators will need to create their own stable, attractively priced demand to cover their operating leverage.
In contrast, Delta started as a company to solve a specific use case — the boll weevil infestation of the early 1920s. The company built aircraft for crop dusting and then built a crop-dusting aviation service to solve the problem. Designing a solution for a completely new use case feels analogous to the challenge that Lilium, Volocopter and Joby face today. Trying to solve the use case end-to-end via a tightly coordinated team could simplify the challenge. In addition, it is not clear that Lilium could find an air taxi airline customer for its UAM aircraft even if it wanted to do so. The carrier models that could buy and operate these aircraft simply don’t exist today, nor would most airlines feel comfortable operating this type of equipment on their own. To quote David Merrill, CEO of Elroy Air, who has considered building his own freight carrier in addition to the development of the company’s Chaparral autonomous cargo aircraft, “our commercial logistics customers understand the enormous value of our autonomous aircraft in expanding express middle-mile capacity, but many don’t want the added complexity of operating it in the early years.” (My firm DiamondStream Partners is an investor in Elroy Air.)
The Benefits And Risks Of Making An All-In Bet
Ultimately, aviation models usually depend on two things for success: directness of routing to save time, and cost to produce the service (of which the biggest driver is asset utilization). The Elevate team combined with the Uber Partnership, can help Joby significantly in both respects. Via its modeling efforts around UAM network optimization Elevate’s insights can help reduce costs by improving asset utilization of the carrier model. Its practical experience with Uber Copter into how to integrate ride-sharing networks into UAM services to create seamless multi-modal experiences should cut time off customer trips. Based on what we know about stimulation of aviation demand, those two value-adds should help grow the market significantly.
Set against those benefits, stand a few substantial risks. Unlike Boeing’s vertical integration strategy of the 1920s and 1930s, new UAM carriers will find it hard to predict volume early on. Cars represent a formidable competitor. They cost about 37 cents a passenger mile at average occupancy — probably a tenth or less of what UAM services will initially cost. Commuters are highly sensitive to transportation costs and a 22-mile commute each way might cost $130/week via car including parking. At $2/mile, which is the cost for an Uber ride-share today, the same commute would cost about $440/week. At $4/mile, a more realistic initial price for UAM services, it would cost closer to $880/week, although it could be lower in the case of someone who works remotely most days. In an environment where increasing numbers of people work from home and congestion eases, the time advantage of a multi-modal trip based on flights may also decline.
In addition, competition from new forms of fixed-wing aircraft could limit UAM volume, particularly in the early years before urban vertiport infrastructure build outs. Fixed-wing airplanes retrofitted with hybrid-electric propulsion systems should become available about the same time as eVTOL aircraft. These fixed-wing planes could transport passengers at lower cost than the initial eVTOL vehicles due to the greater efficiency of fixed-wing flight, the ability to use existing fueling infrastructure, and their larger number of seats. These types of operations could also scale more easily due to the higher passenger to pilot ratio. In commercial aviation, operators that fly smaller, less efficient aircraft often find themselves in the role of developing routes for operators with lower cost, higher capacity planes.
A third concern involves unionization. Given the scale of operations that UAM businesses plan to develop, this industry will most likely have unions that look more like the unions in the regional aviation or the commercial aviation industry than the less unionized charter industry. Pilots unions tend to negotiate contracts that increase the operating leverage of today’s commercial airlines, although some low-cost carriers have variable pay union contracts. As the demand for pilots from electric aviation growth increases, pilot shortages could give unions increased leverage over these businesses. More importantly for the vertical integrators, the unions will probably express reservations about the pace and safety of the transition to autonomous flight technology that the UAM companies will depend on to push costs down and stimulate demand.
Finally, this strategy could create some channel conflict between the vertical integration plays and pure play carriers. Uber Elevate comes complete with a valuable network of partners. Many of these, like the relationship with Signature Flight Support, should translate seamlessly into Joby’s vertically integrated model. However, why should the airframe partners want to support the network of one of their largest and best financed competitors? Even with a carrier strategy, none of the airframe companies with vertical integration plans will have the capital to roll-out these networks globally right away. It will just cost too much. If it is demand and not vehicles in short supply, non-affiliated airlines may choose to use vehicles from manufacturers that don’t compete in their core business.
Partnership strategies can help mitigate some of the risks from operating leverage and labor relations that vertical integration will create. Today, the major commercial carriers purchase capacity from the regional carriers instead of owning and operating those fleets. WheelsUp had a similar kind of operating arrangement with Gama in private charter. While these arrangements certainly have their advantages, the operating leverage will live somewhere in the vertically integrated system and the partners will probably not want to accept the operating leverage without some type of guaranteed volume contract.
Playing To Win
In the end, UAM represents an entirely new transportation model that requires new technology, infrastructure, systems and regulatory frameworks to deliver a cost-effective transport solution with direct connections and a good customer experience. Vertical integration strategies give Joby, Lilium, and Volocopter more control over the levers required to launch in the industry, which could give them, and by extension the entire industry, a better chance of large-scale customer adoptions. However, this strategy also comes with far greater capital requirements, the daunting task of becoming the best at multiple steps of the value chain, and the prospect of channel conflict that slows scaling in their non-priority markets.
The Lilium, Joby, and Volocopter carrier strategies suggest they believe proprietary volume will ramp up quickly. These companies face a chicken and egg problem: To stimulate demand they need the scale, but to pay for the capital required to grow demand also requires scale. When demand is uncertain, playing to win by increasing operating leverage takes vision, courage and deep pockets.
After committing to launching a commercial eVTOL platform in Singapore within the next two to three years, Volocopter has now announced that advance tickets for their eVTOL flight service, VoloFirst, have officially sold out. The VoloFirst flights, priced at $365 USD per ticket (€300), will consist of a short scenic routes, a 10-15 minute flight “over the Southern waters, offering...
After committing to launching a commercial eVTOL platform in Singapore within the next two to three years, Volocopter has now announced that advance tickets for their eVTOL flight service, VoloFirst, have officially sold out. The VoloFirst flights, priced at $365 USD per ticket (€300), will consist of a short scenic routes, a 10-15 minute flight “over the Southern waters, offering breathtaking views of the Marina Bay skyline.” The initial VoloFirst flights are expected to commence sometime in 2023.
The German aviation startup has been doing intensive work in Singapore for some time now, making strides in development and successfully performing several test flights, including a high-profile manned flight in late 2019. While Singapore is relatively untroubled by traffic congestion relative to other major urban centers (which is arguably the biggest driving factor for the rapid growth of the aerial mobility industry), the island-city state holds plenty of potential capital, as well as a strong tech research sector, both factors which seem to be leading Singapore to become a very valuable benefactor for Volocopter.
According to Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter, “Singapore is renowned for its leading role in adapting and living new technologies. Our successful cooperation with the Economic Development Board, Ministry of Transport, and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore on our previous flight has shown that there is no better place in Asia to launch our electric air taxi services than in Singapore. The city’s research institutes conducting R&D play an integral part in this. Topics like route validation for autonomous operations, material science, and research regarding battery technology are very important for our long-term business success.”
In order to meet their deadline of just 3 years, Volocopter intends to build up a team of more than 200 in the coming years, and remains confident that they will be able to reach their goal on schedule. As of now, the biggest obstacle in Volocopter’s path is certification, not only with EASA authorities, but local Singaporean authorities as well before Volocopter will be able to service passengers. However with the relative simplicity of Volocopter’s design, especially in comparison to the designs of other competitors, it could be entirely possible to see eVTOLs ferrying tourists and early adopters alike in 2023.
Why it’s important: Volocopter’s declaration of getting a commercial aerial mobility platform up and running in three years is an aggressive one, but is far from improbable. Considering both the simplicity of Volocopter’s eVTOL design as well as the expectation that initial flights will resemble tourist rides more than an actual method of commute, Volocopter’s goal is ambitious, but definitely possible. Volocopter’s aggressive approach is also completely understandable. Successfully getting their eVTOL platform up and running would have Volocopter passing one of the biggest milestones in the aerial mobility sector and be years ahead of most competitors.
Source // New Atlas
Volocopter has released the first worldwide study in partnership with ADAC Luftrettung on the role of eVTOL platforms in air rescue operations. The study was has spanned nearly two years of research and technology demonstrations across Bavaria and the Rhineland and has tried to determine if an aerial mobility focused rescue service system can expedite the transport of doctors and...
Volocopter has released the first worldwide study in partnership with ADAC Luftrettung on the role of eVTOL platforms in air rescue operations. The study was has spanned nearly two years of research and technology demonstrations across Bavaria and the Rhineland and has tried to determine if an aerial mobility focused rescue service system can expedite the transport of doctors and other medical professionals. The two companies previously launched simulated rescue operations a year ago in Germany.
The goal of the study is to determine the feasibility in transporting emergency doctors, rather than direct patient transport. Volocopter envisions working to complement rapid air assistance rather than replace it in early implementations.
Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter, commented, “The VoloCity is the first multicopter worldwide that is already in the process of commercial certification, and together with ADAC Luftrettung, it could already save lives today.
According to the study, significant improvements in emergency care for an operating radius of 25 to 30 kilometers has been shown. Cruise speed of the multicopter should be between 100 and 150 km/h with a minimum range of approx. 150 kilometers. These ideal conditions would be technically possible in about four years.
With such multicopters, emergency physicians could often be at the scene of an emergency twice as fast in rural areas compared to a conventional emergency medical service vehicle and reach around two to three times as many patients in a larger health service area. According to the study, multicopters were demonstrated as an adequate means in combatting the shortage of emergency doctors in many places and enabling current emergency doctors to work more efficiently. This was one of the most important findings of the study in light of the national average emergency physician arrival time worsening in the last 20 years by almost 40 percent.
“The work of the project participants is very impressive. Today we are convinced that multicopters can help shape and improve future rescue services. The results are so promising that we will pursue operational testing of the project,” announced Frédéric Bruder, Managing Director of the non-profit ADAC Luftrettung.
The study not only reviewed the technical elements of the mission profile but also legal, economic, and societal implications. They found that cost-efficiency is possible to achieve when compared relative to other investment requirements in the healthcare industry. Furthermore, the study found this implementation of eVTOL platforms could help solidify their position as a global leader in innovation and even become an incubator for them in the future.
Why it matters: This study between Volocopter and ADAC Luftrettung not only demonstrates Germany’s commitment to applying aerial mobility platforms on a large scale in the near term, but also dives deeper into the secondary and tertiary effects of its ambitions. On the surface, enhancing air response for emergency medical professionals will improve network efficiency and ultimately save lives. These advancements, however, underly Germany’s overall investment in aerial mobility and its desire to be a global leader in ushering in the next era of aviation.
Earlier last week TransportUP covered the Volocopter press release outlining provisional steps for a partnership with Japan Airlines. The intent of this partnership is to supplement the current aerial mobility sphere in Japan, through the combination of aerial transport already provided by JAL and the support of shorter intra-island routes via air taxis. These routes are reportedly to cover both...
Earlier last week TransportUP covered the Volocopter press release outlining provisional steps for a partnership with Japan Airlines. The intent of this partnership is to supplement the current aerial mobility sphere in Japan, through the combination of aerial transport already provided by JAL and the support of shorter intra-island routes via air taxis. These routes are reportedly to cover both urban areas (intracity routes) and intercity and even more remote use cases to provide for transportation of goods and services to areas beyond those common to ultra-high population densities.
This announcement comes 6 months after JAL’s Innovation Fund invested in Volocopter GmbH earlier this year – but differs from the general slew of investment fund trends for one key reason.
According to Volocopter’s press release, “JAL will provide their in-depth knowledge accumulated via safe aircraft operation experience to a next-generation air mobility operation platform service. In addition, through air mobility services, JAL aims to deliver medical care in remote areas to achieve key sustainable development goals.”
An increasing number of intercity and intracity use cases have been defined for aerial mobility aircraft, but the vast majority of rural operations focus on human aid and disaster relief, as well as logistics operations. Due to Japan’s more unique population of more elderly citizens in rural portions of the country (many of which lacking easy access to transportation) the emphasis on rural operations is a special identifier for this join venture. Generally, one of the most underestimated market segments for aerial mobility operations are transport to/from urban centers to remote locations 100-150 miles away. Given that a slightly older population living further outside of larger cities in many cases has more disposable income than those who are younger and tend to live in urban centers, early adopters of aerial mobility transport from rural areas may number larger than many projections estimate.
While Volocopter does not yet have a certified aircraft per Japanese Civil Aviation authorities, the company told Helicopter Investor in an interview that transferral of certification credit from EASA was being considered as a more efficient means to deployment.
Why it’s important: The operational experience of Japan Airlines should provide the stability and foundation for larger scale aerial mobility operations. Volocopter will be committing their significant investments toward their air taxi to the partnership, but the frequent flyer customer base from JAL should serve as a readily available trial market once a certified aerial mobility aircraft is available for transport.
Read the press release here.
Volocopter has made two major announcements this week with regards to the development of its aerial mobility service as well as the testing of its electric air taxi, the VoloCity. The company has teamed with Groupe ADP and RATP Groupe to be the first industrial player to test their full-scale electrical air taxi, the VoloCity, in the Paris Region. Additionally,...
Volocopter has made two major announcements this week with regards to the development of its aerial mobility service as well as the testing of its electric air taxi, the VoloCity. The company has teamed with Groupe ADP and RATP Groupe to be the first industrial player to test their full-scale electrical air taxi, the VoloCity, in the Paris Region. Additionally, Volocopter and Japan Airlines (JAL) entered into a cooperation agreement to promote UAM development for next generation air transportation options of passengers and goods.
The agreement outlines that Volocopter and JAL work on permanent sustainable commercial operations of air taxis in Japan. By establishing local partnerships, jointly approaching Japanese cities and prefectures and working on market demand and social acceptance, JAL and Volocopter will prepare for commercial launch in Japan within the next 3 years. JAL will provide their in-depth knowledge accumulated via safe aircraft operation experience to a next-generation air mobility operation platform service. In addition, through air mobility services, JAL aims to deliver medical care in remote areas to achieve key sustainable development goals.
JAL, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, and MS&AD InterRisk Research & Consulting, who are all invested in Volocopter, also announced a collaboration to accelerate Volocopters entry into the Japanese Market. The collaboration of airline operator, insurance provider, and business development partners as well as an Urban Air Mobility pioneer makes this approach a sustainable and promising one.
Meanwhile, Volocopter’s agreement with Paris region, Groupe ADP and RATP Groupe has promising implications in the current context of environmental transition in air transport, economic recovery, and urban densification. The two have decided to bring together all the conditions to make the emergence of this new mode of transport possible to complement the existing modes, whether for the public or for goods.
“The structuring and development of an Air Mobility branch on the airfield of Pontoise – Cormeilles-en-Vexin is both consistent with the Recovery Plan initiated by Paris Region, and in line with the key takeaways of Paris Region recent COP 2020 conference. It also falls within the scope and priorities of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic games. As a result, this event represents an invaluable opportunity to involve the entire Aviation Industry and demonstrate the unique qualities of Paris Region as an area of reference within the global Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market,” according to Valérie Pécresse, President of Paris Region.
“Today, we aim at exploring and enabling the development of all potential futures of a decarbonized and innovative aviation,” noted Edward Arkwright, Deputy CEO of Groupe ADP. “Urban Air Mobility, driven by an all-electric vehicle capable of a vertical takeoff and landing, will be able to take-off and accelerate its development through the establishment of a sandbox at our Pontoise airfield, a unique testing opportunity in Europe. In partnership with Paris Region and RATP group, and in the framework of an international call for expression of interest, we are strongly positioned to federate a unique ecosystem in Paris Region, by combining our infrastructures assets, our know-how and expertise in terms of mobility and our territorial anchoring.”
Why it’s important: The prospect of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games provides an exceptional opportunity to involve an entire industry and to make Paris Region a leader in the global market of Urban Air Mobility. Volocopter, the German electric air taxi company, reinforces the project’s feasibility by bringing its 9 years of aviation experience to the initiative. Simultaneously, the expansion in to operations with JAL is demonstrative of the company’s growing list of industry partners, and its strong reputation. As one of the most punctual major international airlines and a certified 5-Star Airline by Skytrax, JAL is committed to providing customers with the highest levels of flight safety and quality in every aspect of its service, and believes Volocopter can assist in carrying out its mission.
Source // Volocopter press release
Reuters reported on Monday that German aviation startup Volocopter entered a partnership with logistics group DB Schenker to operate heavy lift cargo eVTOLs. A key challenge that faces the aerial mobility industry today (and a hindrance from full scale implementation of commercial eVTOL flights) is obtaining substantial operational data for performance and safety that will pave the roadway toward full-fledged...
Reuters reported on Monday that German aviation startup Volocopter entered a partnership with logistics group DB Schenker to operate heavy lift cargo eVTOLs. A key challenge that faces the aerial mobility industry today (and a hindrance from full scale implementation of commercial eVTOL flights) is obtaining substantial operational data for performance and safety that will pave the roadway toward full-fledged certification. Volocopter’s announcement of the VoloDrone unveiled the perfect system to being acquisition of this data.
The VoloDrone has a useful load of 200 kg, and supports light package delivery trips of not more than 40 kilometers. As UPS, Walmart, and Amazon continue their advancements with commercial deployment of logistics aircraft, Volocopter’s partnership with DB Schenker will also establish the German company’s infrastructure for data collection. However, the partnership is B2B oriented, as opposed to the B2C use cases that UPS, Walmart, and Amazon are hyper focused on.
In an interview with Reuters, Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter commented that “The logistics opportunity in the urban market is just as big as the passenger market. When people associate logistics with drones they always think of the 3 kg, last-mile delivery to the doorstep,” Reuter said. “It’s the middle mile, not the last mile, that we are serving.” Reportedly, Schenker selected Volocopter after suporting a portion of the company’s $103 million funding round in February. Volocopter has raised over 120 million euros from investors to date, and an operational VoloDrone prototype should be implemented some time during 2021.
Volocopter also recently announced commercial ticket sales for VoloCity airtaxi rides. Prices are currently high, at 300 euros for a 15 minute flight, but are intended to decrease as implementation of these aircraft expands.
Reuter commented that the certification timeline for the VoloCity from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is expected “towards the end of 2022”. The VoloDrone will follow with certification in 2023. While the VoloDrone might not receive certification prior to the VoloCity passenger version, special flight permits would allow for case by case use approvals for the VoloDrone. Such permits would require additional training for Schenker operators to ensure that safety protocols are adhered to, and the intent is to make the training relatively easy for employees.
Why it’s important: An increasing number of cargo logistics applications for aerial mobility companies are offering low-hanging fruit for data collection that will eventually be used for system certification. Fortunately, the lower risk exposure to conducting logistical operations will pave the way for a safer systems-based maturation and integration program for many manufacturers. However, Volocopter has established themselves as an outlier by selecting the business to business format, in lieu of B2C transactions. B2B use cases may benefit from easier of implementation than B2C: business will likely employ more routine and repeatable flight paths and delivery requirements than those of customer deliveries, which vary in frequency and location to a larger degree.
Source // Reuters
“Be the first to fly with an electric air taxi,” Volocopter advertised as it announced the commencement of the world’s first public sale for electrical air taxi flight reservations. As of today, September 16th, Volocopter fans world-wide can reserve their tickets online and be amongst the very first to take this new form of mobility. Volocopter revealed the initiative at...
“Be the first to fly with an electric air taxi,” Volocopter advertised as it announced the commencement of the world’s first public sale for electrical air taxi flight reservations.
As of today, September 16th, Volocopter fans world-wide can reserve their tickets online and be amongst the very first to take this new form of mobility. Volocopter revealed the initiative at the Greentech Festival in Berlin, and has made 1000 presale reservations available for a limited time. The “VoloFirst” costs €300 and can be reserved with a 10% deposit. With the reservation, passengers will receive the following:
- A flight with a duration of approx. 15 minutes (approx.) scheduled within the first 12 months after commercial launch
- A video of the passenger’s flight
- A limited edition, personalized certificate included in reservation
The announcement follows Volocopter’s successful demonstration flights in Stuttgart, at Helsinki’s international airport, and over Singapore’s Marina Bay. “Based on our public test flights and regulatory achievement record, we have paved the way to make electric flight in cities common in just a few years. With the start of reservations, we now invite our supporters and innovators around the world to join us and be amongst the first to experience this new and exciting form of mobility,” said Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter. The reservations for the first VoloCity flights are available world-wide on the Volocopter Reservation Platform.
Why it’s important: Volocopter is working to build the world’s first sustainable and scalable urban air mobility business to bring affordable air taxi services to megacities worldwide. The VoloCity, its fully electric “eVTOL” aircraft, has already begun the certification process in order to safely and quietly transport passengers within cities. Volocopter’s outspoken goal is to ‘Bring Urban Air Mobility to Life’ and has made significant headway in conjunction with its partners in infrastructure, operations, and air traffic management to build the necessary ecosystem. The early commercialization of its technology through limited reservation flights will serve as a funding mechanism for continued development of its technology as well as for the certification process. As an added benefit, the strategically limited supply of flights may increase publicity of the offering and ultimately result in an impactful marketing effort for the company.
- Volocopter Selects Diehl Aerospace for its Flight Computers
- Dr. Arnaud Coville Named new Volocopter CTO
Source // Volocopter press release
Volocopter announced on July 16th that Dr. Arnaud Coville will take over the role of Chief Technical Officer from Jan-Hendrik Boelens. Dr. Coville joined the company as Head of VoloCity Development in May 2020, and brings with him expertise in technical leadership and aircraft design from past larger transport category aircraft and rotorcraft programs alike. “Electrically powered air taxis will...
Volocopter announced on July 16th that Dr. Arnaud Coville will take over the role of Chief Technical Officer from Jan-Hendrik Boelens. Dr. Coville joined the company as Head of VoloCity Development in May 2020, and brings with him expertise in technical leadership and aircraft design from past larger transport category aircraft and rotorcraft programs alike.
“Electrically powered air taxis will change aviation as we know it. Together with the talented team of experts here at Volocopter, we will bring the very first air taxi for safe urban travel to the market,” says Arnaud Coville, CTO Volocopter.
Arnaud Coville studied engineering and has a PhD in automatic control and robotics. His aerospace experience spans almost three decades. Volocopter stated in a press release that he assisted with development of aircraft from the Airbus Helicopters H135 to regional jets like the CRJ-700, through large aircraft like the A350 and A380. In these roles, Dr. Coville worked for companies including Safran, Fairchild Dornier, Diehl Avionik and Airbus Helicopter.
Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter stated “Jan-Hendrik has done tremendous work for Volocopter. For the past three years, he has led the VoloCity development and helped us reach defining milestones, including conducting several public flights and receiving Design Organisation Approval by EASA. It was under his leadership we brought our product this far, grew an exceptional team and helped set the Company up for success. Now we look forward to build upon this legacy and continue our journey with Arnaud Coville.”
Why it’s important: Volocopter aims to continue their technological development push through to small scale deployment of on-demand aerial mobility services. Accordingly, tapping Dr. Coville as a talent leader for Technology at Volocopter will allow the company to leverage his expertise working larger scale aircraft certification programs, presumably increasing the ease with which Volocopter will be able to see their aircraft through flight testing and certification under the purview of multiple regulatory agencies.
Source // Volocopter Press Release
Diehl Aerospace has signed a contract with Volocopter for the development and production of its flight-control computers (FCC). The primary and secondary flight-control computers will be used on Volocopter’s highly anticipated VoloCity prototype, one of the first fully electric air taxi eVTOL vehicles. Diehl is no stranger to the commercial aerospace sector. For years, it has been an industry leader...
Diehl Aerospace has signed a contract with Volocopter for the development and production of its flight-control computers (FCC). The primary and secondary flight-control computers will be used on Volocopter’s highly anticipated VoloCity prototype, one of the first fully electric air taxi eVTOL vehicles.
Diehl is no stranger to the commercial aerospace sector. For years, it has been an industry leader in cabin interiors and aircraft systems to OEM’s including Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, and Embraer, among others. This contract marks the company’s first entry into the aerial mobility space and also one of the first contracts of its kind for the industry as a whole.
Initial developmental work has begun for VoloCity’s flight-control computers. Under current program schedules, certification is expected in 2021 and entry-into-service (EIS) is expected in the next two to four years. Diehl stated it also is looking into opportunities to partner with manufacturers in the aerial mobility to complement other product lines, such as cabin interiors and systems integration.
Diehl Aerospace is a joint venture of the German Diehl Group and the French Thales Group. They currently supply cabin liners, lavatories, galleys, cabin lighting, avionics, fire protection, and air distribution systems to a variety of commercial and military customers.
Why it matters: This is one of the first major contracts in the aerial mobility industry including a major supplier in the commercial aerospace supply chain. Diehl brings years of technical experience developing systems (including flight-control computers) which have previously been certified on exisiting aircraft platforms. This partnership will give Volocopter a competitive edge in the aerial mobility space as it will not need to develop its own controls logic from scratch. In the context of COVID-19, this is also an exciting partnership as the commercial aerospace supply chain will need to find new, innovative ways to adapt its capabilities in a new world with significantly slowed air travel and aerospace manufacturing.
Volocopter and DB Schenker announced an investment by the global logistics service provider into the aerial mobility startup as Volocopter extends its Series C funding to now a total of €87 million. Volocopter’s Series C funding now includes DB Schenker, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Group, MS&AD Ventures, and TransLink Capital (Japan Airlines and Sompo Japan Insurance), Lukasz Gadowski and btov also...
Volocopter and DB Schenker announced an investment by the global logistics service provider into the aerial mobility startup as Volocopter extends its Series C funding to now a total of €87 million.
Volocopter’s Series C funding now includes DB Schenker, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Group, MS&AD Ventures, and TransLink Capital (Japan Airlines and Sompo Japan Insurance), Lukasz Gadowski and btov also invested. The funding is most likely aimed at the certification for Volocopter’s project: VoloCity, as well as funding a second-generation VoloDrone and hiring more industry experts. As of now, Volocopter’s total funding is at €122 million.
VoloCity is Volocopter’s autonomous electrical VTOL aircraft project where they plan to offer air taxi services across metropolitan areas across the world. Recently, Volocopter completed a public flight over the Marina Bay Reservoir in Singapore. “We are convinced that the Volocopter technology has the potential to bring transport logistics to the next dimension for our customers”, says Jochen Thewes, CEO of DB Schenker. “DB Schenker has already tested autonomous and electrical vehicles in several innovation projects and in actual operations. By integrating the VoloDrone into our supply chain of the future, we will be able to serve our clients’ demand for fast, remote, emission-neutral deliveries. We are thrilled to now be part of this drive for innovation in a fantastic team.”
According to Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter, “The new shareholder structure strengthens our global network of strategic and financial partners significantly. Bringing urban air mobility to life for passengers and goods is a great ambition and with our new partners, we bring the expertise and necessary long-term funds on board to make this innovative form of mobility a reality.” Volocopter also recently appointed Yifan “Frank” Li, Vice President of Geely Holding Group Co, Ltd., and Jochen Thewes, CEO of DB Schenker, as new additions to its Advisory Board.
Why it’s important: Volocopter continues to secure their future development as their Series C funding round now finishes at €87 million. The company remains one of the most promising aerial mobility startups in the industry, and comes closer to offering their products and services within the decade.
Source // American Journal of Transportation
From Volocopter Press Release German Urban Air Mobility company Volocopter (Bruchsal) and Southeast Asia’s super app Grab (Singapore) announced that they will conduct a joint feasibility study on urban air mobility as part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore the prospect of urban air mobility solutions in the region’s megacities. The feasibility study will look into the most...
From Volocopter Press Release
German Urban Air Mobility company Volocopter (Bruchsal) and Southeast Asia’s super app Grab (Singapore) announced that they will conduct a joint feasibility study on urban air mobility as part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore the prospect of urban air mobility solutions in the region’s megacities.
The feasibility study will look into the most suitable cities and routes to deploy air taxis in Southeast Asian cities; evaluate the best use cases for air taxis, and explore the possibility of joint flight tests, among other things.
The findings will lay the groundwork for potential future cooperation between both companies which could include launching services related to urban air mobility. Both companies aim to help solve mobility issues and improve the quality of life through technological innovations.
Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter: “This cooperation is another important step towards the commercialization of Urban Air Mobility in one of the most traffic congested regions of the world. Together, we will learn from unprecedented insights into the economic and societal opportunity of launching our services on the hottest routes in the Southeast Asian Market. This collaboration also offers the potential for a much larger cooperation which could eventually extend intermodal mobility to the skies.”
Volocopter has been pioneering the development of urban air mobility since the company proved in 2011 that electrically powered vertical flight is indeed possible for humans. With flights in Dubai, Las Vegas, Helsinki, Stuttgart, and most recently Singapore, the technology is maturing towards certification quickly. For the flight over Singapore’s Marina Bay, the company worked closely with the local Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). Recently, Volocopter has been certified as a Design Organisation by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and works in close collaboration with them to receive the necessary permits to start commercial operations.
Chris Yeo, Head of Grab Ventures, said: “As a superapp that operates across 339 cities in Southeast Asia, Grab has gathered traffic patterns and customer insights in the region that can help our teams come up with the most innovative mobility solutions to plug the gaps in the transport landscape. This partnership will enable Volocopter to further develop urban air mobility solutions that are relevant for Southeast Asian commuters so they can decide on their preferred journey option based on their budgets, time constraints and other needs, in a seamless way.”
Why it’s important: This partnership is hugely important for both Grab and Volocopter since the TAM in Singapore and southeast Asia for aerial mobility applications is quite large – and the pace of aerial mobility technology development in those areas is extremely quick as well. Volocopter’s continued efforts to expand their global reach and become a commonly-known air taxi and mobility company (for now in the realm of the aerial mobility industry, at least) is furthered by the announcement of this MOU.
Volocopter is the first eVTOL startup on record to receive DOA from EASA. German electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft manufacturer Volocopter has been working closely with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) through a series of audits to prove the safety of its manufacturing process. This week, EASA awarded Volocopter with Design Organisation Approval (DOA), confirming the safe...
Volocopter is the first eVTOL startup on record to receive DOA from EASA.
German electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft manufacturer Volocopter has been working closely with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) through a series of audits to prove the safety of its manufacturing process. This week, EASA awarded Volocopter with Design Organisation Approval (DOA), confirming the safe and controlled performance of the company’s processes. “Receiving this seal of approval from EASA is testament to our rigorously professional processes, world class team, and devotion to safety here at Volocopter,” says Jan-Hendrik Boelens, CTO and Head of Design Organization of Volocopter.
As an approved Design Organisation, Volocopter has gained a competitive edge in development speed, while maintaining a guarantee of the highest safety standards. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has been designing and testing various models of its prototype eVTOLs in Bruchsal, Germany and successfully completed its first urban manned flight over Singapore’s Marina Bay in October of this year.
EASA is the European Union’s aviation authority and regulator, ensuring the highest level of safety protection. The regulator awards DOA to companies they have thoroughly audited with regards to their organisation, processes, resources, and staff expertise. Key aspects the agency checks before giving their seal of approval are clearly defined throughout certain processes that also need to be lived in everyday work, safety awareness, and the organisation. The audits ultimately serve to assess and decide whether a company can bring a safe aircraft to market.
By awarding a DOA, EASA entrusts a growing range of responsibilities to Volocopter as per a set of rules and processes. The key effect of having a DOA is that EASA exercises surveillance to the organization as a whole, and the involvement can be reduced to fewer steps on the way to the final commercial certification. Consequently, product development can be conducted at a faster pace by the approved organization. These privileges accompanying DOA can eventually include elements such as issuing approvals of changes or even issuing a permit to fly for its test aircraft allowing to conduct engineering and certification flight test of Volocopter’s commercial air taxi. “Design Organisation Approval is a crucial step towards receiving commercial certification and brings air taxis ever closer!” says Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter.
Earlier this year EASA also finalized and published the Special Condition VTOL, the world’s first certification baseline specifically created for air taxis, under which Volocopter is in process to get its aircraft certified. The announcement answered some of the questions surrounding the required level of certification and safety in the development process for VTOLs, especially ones intended for usage in urban air mobility.
Why it’s important: Receiving EASA DOA thus proves to be a strong competitive advantage for Volocopter within the global context, and may contribute to the company widening the gap in the race to certify the world’s first commercially applicable urban air taxi. In conjunction with EASA’s “Special Condition,” the issuance of DOA to Volocopter clarifies expectations and sets a precedent to follow as other eVTOL manufacturers submit for similar certifications.
Source // Volocopter
Sharing strong synergies with the existing Volocopter platform, the VoloDrone presents an unmanned, fully electric utility drone, capable of carrying heavy payloads. The VoloDrone has been designed and engineered to serve challenging missions across diverse industries, adding the third dimension to sustainable transport.
Stage of Development
Aircraft Type: wingless eVTOL
Powerplant: Li-ion battery packs
Range: 40 km / 25 miles
Top Speed: 110km/h / 68mph
Propeller Configuration: 18 lift/thrust rotors
Passenger/Payload Capacity: 200 kg / 440 lbs
Autonomy Level: Autonomous
Wingspan/Dimensions: 30 ft x 7.5 ft tall
Type: Unmanned multicopter
Aspired Certification: EASA CS UAS
Take-off mass (MTOM): 800 kg
Equipment: Box, sling, sprayer, spreader, customised gear
Cruise speed (Vc): 80 km/h
Materials used: Composite, aluminium, 3D printed nylon
Battery system: Exchangeable rechargeable battery packs
Battery swapping time: < 5 min
Engine type: Brushless DC electric motor (BLDC)
Number of motors: 18
Our Take on VoloDrone
The first flight of the VoloDrone demonstrator in October 2019 marks the beginning of intensive customer interaction in real-life applications, which provides the basis for the serial product. Many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are seeing new opportunities to apply aerial mobility technology to the logistics industry, and as it leads to increased competition in the sector, could benefit and expedite the implementation of the technology for human transportation.With VoloDrone's adaptable payload system, Volocopter aims to reach a wide swath of market opportunities ranging from agriculture, logistics, and infrastructure to public services, all while offering time and cost advantages compared to existing solutions.
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Back to The Hangar
Volocopter expands into utility drone business with fully-electric VoloDrone demonstrator. Volocopter, an active innovator in the aerial mobility industry, presented the demonstrator of its VoloDrone on October 30th near the company’s headquarters in Germany. This marks Volocopter’s expansion into the logistics, agriculture, infrastructure and public services industry. The VoloDrone is an unmanned, fully electric, heavy-lift utility drone capable of carrying a payload...
Volocopter expands into utility drone business with fully-electric VoloDrone demonstrator.
Volocopter, an active innovator in the aerial mobility industry, presented the demonstrator of its VoloDrone on October 30th near the company’s headquarters in Germany. This marks Volocopter’s expansion into the logistics, agriculture, infrastructure and public services industry. The VoloDrone is an unmanned, fully electric, heavy-lift utility drone capable of carrying a payload of up to 200 kg (440 lbs). With its adaptable payload system, Volocopter aims to reach a wide swath of market opportunities ranging from agriculture, logistics, and infrastructure to public services, all while offering time and cost advantages compared to existing solutions.
The VoloDrone’s propulsion system is visually similar to that of the iconic Volocopter 2X. The rotor area of the VoloDrone has a diameter of 9.2 m and sits at 2.3 m height, allowing for a maximum range of up to 40 km (25 miles). It can be remotely piloted or flown in automated mode on pre-set routes. The aircraft is also outfitted with a standardized rail attachment system commonly applied in aerospace and logistics in order to accommodate a wide variety of payloads. Built to be compatible with Euro-palette packages, it provides enough space for a sling, a sprayer or other customized equipment.
A team of specialists based at the special airfield in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich has developed the aircraft. “Since the very beginning, we have worked with strategic partners across different industries to develop a product that will provide significant value in their specific use cases. It is therefore designed as a universal air-lift vehicle, that can be adapted to different use cases by special-purpose implements. Listening to the market demands is key for us,” says Christophe Hommet, Chief Engineer of the VoloDrone. To learn more about Volocopter’s strategic ideology, Read Volocopter’s White Paper on Urban Air Mobility.
Sharing strong synergy with the existing Volocopter air taxi platform, the VoloDrone benefits from the accumulated technology competence and flight testing already performed on the Volocopter: its multicopter platform with 18 rotors and swappable lithium-ion batteries as well as the in-house flight control solutions provide a strong reliable basis for the VoloDrone.
“Our core business remains Urban Air Mobility and the transportation of passengers. However, the technological platform of the Volocopter can bring outstanding value to a variety of additional applications. With the VoloDrone, Christophe and his team are bringing the benefits of Volocopter technology to the logistics, agriculture, infrastructure, and public services space,” says Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter. “It expands our leading position in sustainable, fully electric eVTOLs to a host of new applications.”
Why it’s important: The first flight of the VoloDrone demonstrator in October 2019 marks the beginning of intensive customer interaction in real-life applications, which provides the basis for the serial product. Many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are seeing new opportunities to apply aerial mobility technology to the logistics industry, and as it leads to increased competition in the sector, could benefit and expedite the implementation of the technology for human transportation.
Source // Volocopter
On October 22nd, urban air taxi developer Volocopter successfully completed its first urban manned flight over Singapore’s Marina Bay. Not only was the latest demonstration flight the first manned test for Volocopter, it was the second ever test held in an urban flight setting following an autonomous urban flight test in Stuttgart, Germany. Volocopter has been planning this Singapore demonstration since...
On October 22nd, urban air taxi developer Volocopter successfully completed its first urban manned flight over Singapore’s Marina Bay.
Not only was the latest demonstration flight the first manned test for Volocopter, it was the second ever test held in an urban flight setting following an autonomous urban flight test in Stuttgart, Germany. Volocopter has been planning this Singapore demonstration since October of 2018, and the flight occurred right on schedule, marking a major success.
This flight represents a massive achievement for Volocopter, pushing its agenda ever closer to commercialized flight. The Volocopter team has been working extremely hard in the last year to push its urban mobility solutions. In just this year, it has published its own whitepaper study on urban air mobility, released its newest vehicle concept ‘VoloCity’, and worked with the ADAC foundation to complete a staged rescue mission.
The Singapore flight test was the last in Volocopter’s test series to validate and verify the ability of the 2X to fly over this area. The company, along with Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT), hopes to bring commercial air taxi flights to Singapore in the quickly nearing future. The latest test flight covered a distance of approximately 1.5 km and lasted for two minutes at an average cruising height of 40m.
“The flight today in Singapore was the most advanced Volocopter flight yet and the piloted flight was as stable as ever. At the same time, we are showcasing a prototype of our full-scale VoloPort Infrastructure, allowing for a realistic demonstration of air taxi boarding and maintenance services. Never before have people been this close to experiencing what Urban Air Mobility in the city of tomorrow will feel like.” -Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter.