Near Earth Autonomy and Volocopter’s VoloDrone team announced last week that they will partner to test Near Earth Autonomy’s autonomous flight technology on Volocopter’s electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) VoloDrone aircraft. The technology demonstration will culminate in a Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) display in Munich scheduled for some time in the year 2022.
Near Earth Autonomy has conducted 3,500 flights lasting over 2,000 flight hours of their cutting-edge autonomy system across various aircraft types, sizes, and environments in the last eight years of aerial autonomy development. Volocopter and Near Earth Autonomy intend to demonstrate BVLOS capabilities for VoloDrone missions within the business-to-business transport sector.
“We are very excited to work together with the leading player in the aerial autonomy industry,” said Christophe Hommet, Volocopter Chief Engineer VoloDrone. “Near Earth Autonomy has years of experience, shown real results, and is going to help our VoloDrone stay ahead of the curve with autonomous capabilities.”
Sanjiv Singh, CEO of Near Earth Autonomy, commented, “Volocopter’s track record, unique safety design, and vision have established it as the leader in the eVTOL industry. We look forward to proving autonomy systems for their aircraft. Our shared vision of the future, and safety as an integral part of it, makes this an ideal partnership.”
Near Earth has already integrated their BVLOS autonomy systems with full-scale helicopters, both in piloted and remotely piloted configurations. The intent of technology integration with Volocopter will be to adapt their autonomy technology to seamlessly integrate with the overall eVTOL architecture while addressing the challenges of weight, power, and cost.
BVLOS capabilities for the VoloDrone would enable Volocopter to bring fully autonomous aerial cargo transportation to market. Volocopter’s projected market opportunity for VoloDrone transport services is estimated to be ~ $120 billion by 2035.
Why it’s important: BVLOS capability for VoloDrone is a major step toward fully autonomous aerial mobility aircraft for both cargo and passengers. The industry will likely begin autonomy with logistical and cargo application aircraft, and then move on to passenger-carrying versions. However the core IP of the integration will remain largely unchanged, putting Volocopter and Near Earth at the head of the industry’s development. Keep tabs on the progress of Near Earth and Volocopter as 2021 continues and the planned demonstration dates approach.