In its recent study on the social acceptance of urban air mobility (UAM) in Europe, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) identified Paris as the most promising city for airport shuttle and sightseeing applications of eVTOL aircraft. Work on developing a UAM system in the Paris region is well underway, with Choose Paris Region, Groupe ADP, and RATP Group having selected 30 companies to take part in the RE.Invent Air Mobility initiative that aims to establish Paris as a leader in the space.
On June 21, one of the initiative’s main vehicle development partners, Germany’s Volocopter, performed the first public flight demonstration of an eVTOL air taxi in France. Taking place at Le Bourget Airfield during the Paris Air Forum, a remotely piloted Volocopter 2X prototype flew a 500-meter (1,640-foot) route at speeds up to 30 kilometers (18 miles) per hour and heights up to 30 meters (100 feet) above the ground.
The flight marks the beginning of a multi-step test and market development campaign in cooperation with the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC – Direction générale de l’aviation civile). The program will now move to the Pontoise-Cormeilles-en-Vexin airfield northwest of Paris, where the RE.Invent partners have been building up a UAM “sandbox” including a functioning vertiport. This will place the end-to-end UAM operation and passenger experience under test in a real-world environment at an active peri-urban airport.
According to Edward Arkwright, deputy CEO of Groupe ADP, Volocopter should enter its first test flight campaign in Pontoise by September. The goal is to have air taxi services in place during the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games to enhance regional connectivity and showcase the benefits and key attributes of UAM.
Shortly after the three-minute flight, I spoke with Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter, who was clearly elated with the outcome. He praised the drive of both Groupe ADP and RATP Group, which have maintained their strong backing for the RE.Invent Air Mobility initiative since it was first announced last year. Planning for the demonstration was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the teams still managed to keep to their ambitious timeline.
Reuter said that getting the paperwork done for such an event usually takes months but with the cooperation and teamwork of the DGAC, it was completed in about six weeks, with the permit to fly issued a few days before the demo.
In addition to flying its 2X prototype, Volocopter had a model of its VoloCity production multicopter on static display at the forum. Reuter confirmed that the two-seat VoloCity, which is in the process of obtaining EASA certification, will be taking center stage at the 2024 Olympics, rather than the longer-range VoloConnect that the company unveiled last month. For the Olympics mission, he said, range won’t be critical to the main objective, which will be to show a safe operation combined with a good passenger experience.