Recent breakthroughs in technology and transportation will soon allow Singaporeans to experience a taste of the future. Various international companies such as Boeing, Uber, and Airbus, have been developing several prototypes for eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) services with the hopes of easing traffic and pollution in densely populated cities. However, the first company to be successful with an eVTOL service is the German-based air-taxi start-up Volocopter.
The eVTOL are all-electric, zero-emission eVTOLs can hover, take off and land vertically similarly to helicopters, except are based on drone technology while being much quieter and environmentally friendlier. The Volocopter is also pilotless, and will be capable of traveling just under 19 miles on each charge and will be virtually silent to people at ground level while it flies at altitudes of 330 feet.
Receiving the go-ahead from regulators will come sooner rather than later, says Volocopter co-founder Alex Zosel. “Receiving the commercial license for air taxi aircraft is a question of time not possibility,” says Zosel. “Once regulation comes through on the aviation and city level – and this will be sooner than most think – we will be ready to take off.”
Inner urban flight tests in Singapore have already been planned for the second half of 2019. These tests are supported by the Ministry of Transport (MOT), Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), and Economic Development Board (EDB). Following these test will be public demo flights. The Volocopter is specifically designed for flights within the confines of inner cities, able to sustain stable flight even in micro turbulence around skyscrapers, the company added.
The only outstanding requirement stopping Volocopter from launching its business once regulators grant approval is the building of vertiports, or landing pads for eVTOLs. Volocopter announced its partnership with UK-based global vertiport operator Skyports to build its first VoloPort, a flying-taxi station with landing pads, in Singapore.
“Each individual Volo-Port is designed so that it can stand alone or connect to other ports in numerous formations, enabling rapid deployment and scalability. We have analysed the available spaces and movement dynamics in city centres across the world and recognize that infrastructure is a key enabler for the emerging UAM [urban air mobility] market,” says Duncan Walker, Managing Director of Skyports.
Multiple companies around the world are also aiming to enter the flying-taxi airspace. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg revealed that the company is looking to have an eVTOL prototype in 2019 and that pilotless rotorcraft will transport people across clogged urban areas within five years. “Think about a future in which you will have three-dimensional highways to relieve traffic congestion,” Muilenburg told Bloomberg TV.
CityAirbus, a four passenger eVTOL prototype created by European country Airbus, made its first flight on May 3 in Donauwörth, Germany. No formal announcement was made, but CEO Bruno Even revealed the milestone with a tweet including a photo of the engineering team with the aircraft.
Meanwhile, Uber is also another company working on their version of aviation rideshare called Uber Air, hoping to begin demo flights next year, with plans to launch their commercial service by 2023.