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.