By Elan Head

An award-winning journalist, Elan is also a commercial helicopter pilot and an FAA Gold Seal flight instructor with helicopter and instrument ratings. Follow her on Twitter @elanhead

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Volocopter unveils VoloConnect, its longer-range eVTOL air taxi

Volocopter has officially unveiled its new winged eVTOL air taxi concept, the four-seat VoloConnect.

Volocopter VoloConnect eVTOL
With the capacity to travel longer distances, VoloConnect extends Volocopter’s urban air mobility ecosystem coverage to the suburbs. Volocopter Image

Consistent with patent applications filed last year, the lift-plus-cruise design incorporates six lifting propellers distributed across two overhead booms for vertical take-offs and landings. The booms attach to a main wing in the front and a V-tail in the rear, while two ducted fans mounted on pylons on either side of the fuselage provide thrust for forward flight. The aircraft also features retractable landing gear.

Volocopter expects the aircraft to have a cruise speed of around 110 miles per hour (180 kilometers per hour), a range of around 60 miles (100 km) and a payload of 660 to 880 pounds (300 to 400 kilograms). Those represent significant performance increases over its two-seat VoloCity multicopter, which has a cruise speed of approximately 60 mph, a range of just 22 miles (35 km), and a payload of 440 lb. (200 kg).

In a press conference at EBACE Connect on May 17, Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter touted the VoloConnect’s “compact design, natural stability, and high lift-to-drag ratio,” which he said “embodies next-level flight efficiency while maintaining a low stall speed.” VoloConnect will complement VoloCity by expanding the company’s urban air mobility portfolio to encompass flights between cities and their suburbs.

“VoloCity will be first to market, initially for single, later for double passenger missions, being extremely quiet, with the potential to land ubiquitously across the city,” Reuter said. “VoloConnect will then complete our market coverage for passengers by providing a longer mission, and offering a higher payload.”

He noted that the performance estimates for both the VoloCity and the VoloConnect reflect existing battery technology “which we know we can certify today. . . . Of course, we expect to see further advancements in the battery technology and the battery performance, which will ultimately also result in higher performance of our vehicles in the coming years.”

Volocopter expects to certify its VoloCity with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in the next two years, with certification of the VoloConnect anticipated by 2026. Volocopter said its Munich-based team of experts, led by chief engineer Sebastian Mores, have been working on VoloConnect for over two years and are already flying multiple scaled prototypes of the aircraft.

Volocopter VoloConnect eVTOL
VoloConnect will be developed to be capable of both piloted and autonomous operation. Later, “depending on where the regulation is, we will decide on whether there is the need to offer a piloted version at the beginning, or whether we can go fully autonomous,” said Florian Reuter. Volocopter Image

“In terms of the entry into service for the VoloConnect, you might see more aggressive timelines for similar vehicle concepts,” Reuter told reporters at EBACE Connect. “Based on our experience, based on the realistic plan that we have for the development and the certification of this aircraft, we feel 2026 is a realistic timeline and . . . we’re pretty confident we will be one of the earlier vehicles of that design.”

Competing eVTOL developers Archer, Joby, and Lilium have all recently announced mergers with special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) that should provide them with the influx of cash necessary to carry their vehicle concepts through certification. Although Volocopter recently closed an approximately $240 million Series D funding round for total funding of $388 million, that’s still well short of the estimated $1 billion or more it could take to certify one aircraft, let alone two.

Referencing those recent SPAC mergers, Reuter said that there is “huge interest from the investor community including the public investment community” in the emerging urban air mobility market. “We’re extremely confident we will be able to raise the necessary funding to complete and implement our complete strategy,” he said, adding that Volocopter “is in very interesting conversations with numerous investors” at the moment.

This story has been updated from its original version with additional details.

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3 Comments

  1. I would love to hear aviation engineers’ take on those beautiful two encased high-bypass propellers.

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