German start-up Volocopter recently secured 25 million euros (HK$231 million) investment in a funding round led by Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz.
Volocopter has designed an electric, flying taxi that will start shuttling passengers around Dubai as part of a five-year testing period with Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority. The tests will begin by the end of the year.
Here’s what you need to know about the Daimler-backed start-up:
Volocopter, formerly eVolo, has been working on its Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft since 2011. Like the name suggests, the flying taxi can take off vertically without needing a runway.
The aircraft, dubbed the Volocopter 2X, is the startup’s second-generation vehicle. It has been approved as an ultralight vehicle in Germany and can recharge in just 40 minutes using a DC fast charger.
The electric aircraft is designed to fit two and comes with 18 rotors, allowing it to fly through the air extremely quietly. It can reach a top speed of 100km per hour for a limited amount of time.
But it’s not a long-range vehicle. The Volocopter 2X is powered by nine batteries that allow it to fly for 17 minutes at a cruising speed of 70km per hour.
The flying taxi tests beginning this year will shuttle people along predetermined routes in the city of Dubai. The tests are part of Dubai’s aim to use autonomous vehicles to handle 25 per cent of passenger travel by 2030.
The Volocopter 2X is equipped with sensors that allow for autonomous flight. But a pilot will control the aircraft during the five-year testing period as the government sets regulations for a flying taxi service.
“We now have the fantastic opportunity to develop and test the entire future ecosystem for safe, autonomous aircraft with the example of Dubai, together with the RTA,” Volocopter co-founder Alexander Zosel wrote in a press release.
Volocopter is also looking to get international approval so the multicopter can one day be flown in Europe and the US.