ABOVE: The Volocity craft made its first airborne appearance at the Paris Air Show earlier this week.
Amongst the plethora of eVTOL (electric vertical take off and landing) craft on display in a specially-designed hall at Paris, one quite literally ‘rose above’ the others: Volocopter’s VoloCity, the two-seat, multi-rotor eVTOL making its first appearance in the flying display at Le Bourget.
The only eVTOL to participate in this year’s flying programme, the airborne demonstration – described by Volocopter as “the opportunity to test fly in a fully operational airport” – lasted approximately six minutes. It was claimed by the company to be three times quieter than the hospitality chalet’s air conditioning, a crucial area of concern if the emerging UAM (urban air mobility) sector is to find favour with the general public.
Volocopter made the first crewed flight of a multicopter in the world back in 2016, and the craft projected for series production (the VoloCity) was first unveiled in 2018. Featuring 18 small fixed-pitch propellers and corresponding electric motors above a circular beam structure, it is predicted to achieve a top speed of around 90-120km/hr with a range of 35km. Nine exchangeable lithium-ion battery packs will be swapped out after each flight and slow-charged in a custom-designed 20ft ‘charging container’.
Working towards EASA type certification, test flights are expected to continue until Spring 2024 before commercial services commence in Paris in Summer 2024; the first European city (and potentially the first worldwide) to offer public eVTOL flights within this timeframe. Working with partners Group ADP, vertiport construction will begin this summer and be “in full swing” by late 2024. Five to ten aircraft will also fly routes during the Paris Olympics (consisting of three connection journeys and two round-trip tourist flights), one of which will land on the Austerlitz barge on the river Seine.
Volocopter hope these initial routes will “bring the greatest insights into the UAM market yet, allowing the public, partners and stakeholders to familiarize themselves with this new form of mobility”. Although initial passenger flights will be subsidized, Volocopter’s ambitious expectations are that the cost per passenger per km will reduce to €3-4 once the “next generation of vehicles” (seating three or four passengers) becomes viable.
IMAGES: CHARLOTTE BAILEY