Japan Airlines (JAL) and Volocopter have entered into a cooperation agreement to develop urban air mobility in Japan, with the goal of launching commercial service within the next three years.
Japan Airlines Innovation Fund joined Volocopter’s Series C funding round in February of this year. Under the new agreement, JAL will work with the German eVTOL developer to explore business opportunities in Japan for Volocopter’s electrically powered air taxis.
By establishing local partnerships, jointly approaching Japanese cities and prefectures, and working on market demand and social acceptance, the companies aim to achieve permanent sustainable commercial operations of air taxis in the country. JAL also aims to use air mobility services to deliver medical care in remote areas.
The collaboration is further strengthened by the involvement of two other Volocopter investors: Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, and MS&AD InterRisk Research & Consulting. According to Volocopter, “The collaboration of airline operator, insurance provider, and business development partners as well as an urban air mobility pioneer makes this approach a sustainable and promising one.”
Volocopter announced earlier this month that it had started accepting reservations for 15-minute flights on its VoloCity air taxis, to be scheduled within the first 12 months of the aircraft’s commercial launch. Volocopter chief commercial officer Christian Bauer said at the time that the company has “a detailed realistic timeline to launch commercial VoloCity flights in the next two to three years.” The company reported on LinkedIn that it sold nearly three-quarters of the 1,000 available reservations within a week.
This is not JAL’s first foray into urban air mobility. In February, the airline announced it was partnering with Bell and Sumitomo Corporation to explore development of an on-demand air mobility ecosystem in Japan using Bell’s Nexus 4EX eVTOL air taxi. That winged, ducted-fan aircraft is targeting a greater range and payload than Volocopter’s two-seat VoloCity, but is also likely further from commercial service. Volocopter has already conducted extensive flight testing with VoloCity’s immediate predecessor, the Volocopter 2X, including a piloted demonstration last year in Singapore.