The future of public transit is nearly here.
Volocopter, a German aviation startup, flew its all-electric Volocopter 2X for four minutes on Tuesday at the Oshkosh air show in Wisconsin, completing the first public crewed test flight of a fully-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) air taxi in the United States, according to a company statement.
The Volocopter 2X lifted off at a height of 164 feet (50 meters) and flew for four minutes at a peak speed of 18 mph (29 km/h) over Wittman Regional Airport as part of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture Oshkosh 2021.
And the company is just getting started.
Volocopter's air taxi service will start in 'within two years'
"Volocopter successfully conducting the first US public manned test flight of an eVTOL company in the US is a milestone for the industry and a reminder that our commercial launch is fast approaching," said Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter. "We can talk about our lead in certification, low noise emissions, and global partnerships all we want, but nothing shows just how close we are to launch UAM (urban air mobility) as a service as does flying an air taxi in front of crowds and inviting people to sit in our aircraft." During the event, guests witnessed the Volocopter 2X fly, and were allowed to sit in the VoloCity model at Volocopter's stand to get an immersive feel for the aircraft themselves.
And this is not Volocopter's first foray into the air. The startup's first crewed flight took place in Germany in 2016, and it has been flying several iterations of its 18-rotor all-electric aircraft for many years. Volocopter has performed various test flights in Helsinki, Stuttgart, Dubai, and Singapore, and even flown its aircraft onstage momentarily at CES in Las Vegas in 2018. In fact, back in March, the startup released a statement saying it will start its air taxi service "within two years."
We're tremendously close to fully operational air taxis
By successfully performing the first-ever public crewed test flight of an eVTOL air taxi in the U.S., Volocopter has taken a significant step toward a future where flying taxis carry passengers and goods between busy metropolitan areas. According to a Yahoo! report, "air taxis are coming," and Volocopter is working hard to "bring electric flights to cities around the globe in the next two to three years."
We're tremendously close to a critical juncture in the development of air taxis. On Tuesday, a California-based company flew its first full-size prototype more than 150 miles (251 km) on only one charge. Its lead electronics and powertrain officer, Jon Wagner, is also the former head of battery engineering at Tesla. "With the right cell chemistry and a lot of hard work across the entire engineering team, we've been able to create a remarkably efficient aircraft that can make the most of today's commercially available batteries," said Wagner in a press release from Joby. While it's likely only a few air taxi services will operate, and mostly in major cities, the budding industry will doubtlessly serve as an innovative nexus of nascent technologies, from all-electric batteries to the high-tech infrastructural revolution of tomorrow's smart cities.