Volocopter Goes Bigger, Faster, Farther With VoloConnect eVTOL
Volocopter has unveiled a larger, longer-range electric vertical-takeoff air taxi aimed at expanding its planned urban air mobility service out to the suburbs.
The four-seat lift-plus-cruise VoloConnect will complement the German startup’s initial two-seat multicopter VoloCity inner-city air taxi.
With six lift rotors on twin booms connecting the tips of tandem wings, plus two electric ducted fans for propulsion in cruise flight, the VoloConnect is designed to fly 100 km (60 mi.) at a cruise speed of 180 kph (110 mph) on today’s battery technology. The vehicle has retractable landing gear and a maximum speed of around 250 kph.
This compares with a range of 35 km at 110 kph for the 18-rotor VoloCity electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) vehicle. Volocopter said the VoloConnect “extends its UAM [urban air mobility] ecosystem coverage from city to the suburban areas.” Both vehicles will be piloted initially.
Volocopter expects to certify the VoloConnect under the European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) Special Condition for VTOL, Enhanced category, around 2026. The VoloCity is planned for certification by the end of 2022 and Volocopter expects to begin air taxi service in Paris and Singapore in 2023.
“We have been flying multiple scaled models,” Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter said, unveiling the VoloConnect during the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) Connect virtual conference on May 17. “We are working fast toward flying full-scale prototypes … and expect to be coming back with new full-scale footage very soon.”
Unveiling of the VoloConnect takes Volocopter into the winged eVTOL territory already occupied by Archer and Joby Aviation. Archer’s vehicle is a piloted, four-passenger eVTOL using a combination of lift rotors and tilting props to provide a range of 60 mi. at 150 mph, similar to the VoloConnect.
Joby’s piloted, four-passenger tiltprop eVTOL, the S4, is a higher-performance vehicle with a speed of 150 mph and range of 200 mi. Both Archer and Joby are aiming for FAA certification by the end of 2023, leading to entry into service on their own air taxi networks in 2024.
Volocopter plans to operate the VoloCity and VoloConnect together on its own air taxi service and is developing a UAM ecosystem that includes the VoloDrone unmanned logistics eVTOL, VoloPort vertiport and VoloIQ digital infrastructure.
“Volocopter has a clear and long-term strategy in which we want to be operating various vehicles serving the urban domain. We will start serving the single- and double-passenger market in the short term,” Reuter said.
“In some areas we will be operating standalone as our own operating entity. In other areas we will partner with local companies, such as in China where we have a joint venture with Geely,” he said. Chinese automaker Geely also is an investor in Volocopter.
The German startup, which so far has raised almost $350 million, is confident of securing the funding to develop and field the VoloConnect, with Reuter citing the awareness and validation of the growing demand for these types of services.
“There is no other company as well positioned to benefit from these market developments than Volocopter,” he said. “We’re extremely confident we will be able to raise the necessary funding to complete and implement our strategy.”
Acknowledging the company’s strategy is ambitious, Reuter said, “We will continue to raise funds and we are in interesting conversations with different investors, pursuing different routes.” Volocopter has not ruled out going public through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company, the route already taken by Archer, Joby and Germany’s Lilium.