Volocopter has elected to work with Lufthansa Industry Solutions (LHIND) to develop the digital platform that will power its urban air mobility operations, VoloIQ, which will run on Microsoft Azure.
The intent of VoloIQ is to power everything from customer-facing services and integration with other forms of city mobility to predictive maintenance and fleet performance. Through a digital ecosystem able to track and manage every component of an urban air mobility system, combined with artificial intelligence, Volocopter aims to increase safety, efficiency and utilization while decreasing costs — objectives that will be critical for the successful and profitable roll-out of urban air mobility.
“VoloIQ is the digital backbone for enabling the whole Volocopter Urban Air Mobility Services ecosystem and serves as the brain for our air taxi services. Using big data, it will continuously improve efficiency and have a significant positive impact on our customer service quality,” said Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter. “We selected Lufthansa Industry Solutions because of their leading know-how in certified aviation processes and large-scale aircraft operations.”
Lufthansa Group, like many other major aerospace incumbents, has been carefully watching the development of eVTOL aircraft and pursuit of new aviation markets, conducting research through Lufthansa Innovation Group and participating in drone pilot programs and city UAM initiatives.
In January, helicopter manufacturer Bell unveiled progress on a similar AI-powered digital infrastructure system for air taxis called AerOS, which the company displayed at Consumer Electronics Show 2020 directing traffic, handling flight plans and managing energy reserves for miniature autonomous drones and air taxis that flew from rooftop to rooftop in a mock city environment.
Bell has shared little concerning its progress on AerOS and its Nexus eVTOL since the first quarter of the year, but a company spokesperson told eVTOL.com the digital infrastructure project is ongoing, with the team exploring many applications for it. AerOS also runs on Microsoft Azure, a cloud-based computing service.
For VoloIQ, LHIND is developing the system’s software as an implementation partner according to specs provided by Volocopter, according to a spokersperson for the German eVTOL manufacturer.
“We look forward to being part in this newest sector of aviation,” said Bernd Appel, managing director of LHIND. “With our vast knowledge and experience we will build a unique solution for Volocopter, bringing to life the VoloIQ.”
Successful integration with a digital platform will likely be key to the acceptance and profitability of air taxi services, with predictive management of the service’s fleet enabling greater utilization and availability for consumers.
“An air taxi service in Germany can only be offered at a reasonable price if the service utilization rate of the air taxi is sufficiently high,” wrote FEV consulting in a recent publication, noting that 67 percent of the estimated cost of the service — over €800 per hour, according to FEV — comprises operational overhead, costs of the aircraft and pilot salary.