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Volocopter expands into utility drone business with VoloDrone

The German eVTOL developer Volocopter has revealed the VoloDrone, a utility cargo version of its eponymous multicopter.

According to Volocopter, the fully electric drone is designed to carry a payload of 200 kilograms (440 pounds) up to 40 kilometers (25 miles). The rotor system — which, like Volocopter’s air taxis, features 18 independent rotors — is 9.2 meters (30 feet) in diameter and sits 2.3 m (7.5 feet) above the ground. It has a standardized rail attachment system to carry a wide variety of payloads between its landing gear, and can also accommodate a sling, sprayer, or other customized equipment.

Volocopter said that the drone — which can be remotely piloted or flown in an automated mode along pre-set routes — marks the urban air mobility company’s expansion into logistics, agriculture, infrastructure, and public services.

“Our core business remains urban air mobility and the transportation of passengers,” stated Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter. “However, the technological platform of the Volocopter can bring outstanding value to a variety of additional applications.”

Volocopter VoloDrone
The VoloDrone is sized to be compatible with Euro-palette packages, in addition to accommodating customized equipment. Volocopter Photo

Reuter said that Volocopter launched its utility drone project in 2018 as a largely independent activity, led by a team of specialists based at the Oberpfaffenhofen airfield near Munich. The aircraft performed its first tethered flight in October of this year, and the company will now continue working with customers to develop the drone for their individual applications.

“Since the very beginning, we have worked with strategic partners across different industries to develop a product that will provide significant value in their specific use cases,” stated VoloDrone chief engineer Christophe Hommet. “Listening to the market demands is key for us.”

The VoloDrone joins an increasingly crowded field of cargo drones in development, ranging from other fully electric models like Bell’s Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) family, to long-range hybrid-electric aircraft such as the Elroy Air Chaparral. Although many of these projects are being optimized for package delivery, Volocopter is also explicitly targeting agricultural spraying operations, where the VoloDrone could compete favorably against existing agricultural drones such as the Yamaha Fazer.

The announcement comes just a week after Volocopter’s successful air taxi demonstration with a piloted Volocopter 2X in Singapore. Two days later, semiconductor company Micron Technology announced it was joining Volocopter’s Series C funding round through its strategic investment arm, Micron Ventures.

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