By Gerrard Cowan

Gerrard Cowan is a freelance journalist who specializes in finance and defense. Follow him on Twitter @gerrardcowan

q-and-a

Volocopter’s Jörn Jaeger on designing future infrastructure for eVTOL operations

Volocopter is a major European name in the eVTOL industry. The company approaches the sector from two perspectives: as a developer of aircraft through its VoloCity and VoloConnect platforms, and as a designer of the infrastructure that will support urban air mobility (UAM), notably through its VoloPort concept.

Jörn Jaeger is the company’s head of airspace and vertiports. In an interview with eVTOL.com, he discussed Volocopter’s ambition in UAM and vertiport infrastructure, and offered an update on its VoloPort plans and the new VoloPort handbook, which provides customers with an overview of its design plans.

Volocopter VoloPort
A rendering of what a VoloPort could look like on top of existing infrastructure in an urban location. Volocopter Image

eVTOL.com: What is the status of your work on VoloPort?

Jörn Jaeger: We showed the first VoloPort in Singapore in 2019 at the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress. Since then, we have developed it further and created quite comprehensive requirements. We are also continuing to work on the VoloPort design handbook.

A wide range of people and parties have requested more information in reaction to the press release [on the VoloPort handbook]: real estate developers, cities, civil aviation authorities, and government. We are happy that Volocopter is perceived as a company that obviously has done some good work in the domain. 

We are in talks with our target cities. We now have quite a good understanding of the range of vertiport issues, and we understand also the questions and concerns of the different parties. I think we are in quite a good position to develop solutions for nearly any location where a vertiport could be positioned.

eVTOL.com: What is the thinking behind the VoloPort handbook?

Jörn Jaeger: It all started with quite a comprehensive requirements document. It was not out of the blue — we thought about it for quite some time. As early as 2019, we began to think about the requirements for the infrastructure, and we came up with a document that contains more than 600.

We wanted to look at the area from the operations perspective. How do we want to operate the aircraft? What do the passengers need? We created the requirements and then we started to discuss with partners how the solutions could actually work. And the handbook is a collection of solutions. What you see in our renderings is just one option for how the VoloPort could look in specific inner urban locations. But there are many more options.

Of course, the next step is to test and validate the data. But for us, the idea is to start with a vertiport on a condensed footprint. In our opinion, if you can make it in a very small footprint and enable all the functions to have a smooth and convenient customer journey, scaling it up is not as complicated as the other way around. The whole concept is really modular and scalable, and standardization is key, along with making it ecologically friendly and sustainable.

eVTOL.com: What areas does the handbook cover?

Jörn Jaeger: There are certain solutions related to how we think the passenger should go through the terminal, the steps and systems that are needed. How can the staff at the vertiport be accommodated in a way that is safe and efficient, in line with regulation and standards to the best of our knowledge? How could we achieve good capacity and a short turnaround time of the aircraft?

The handbook is the starting point for us to tailor this vision to the UAM market and to collaborate with our partners. Actually, we are in talks with a number of partners already, so I think we’re at the start of some fruitful collaboration.

eVTOL.com: What sets the VoloPort apart?

Jörn Jaeger: It’s down to the three ingredients it actually takes to design a vertiport properly. First, you need to understand the regulations and standards that are developing. We are a member of the EASA [European Union Aviation Safety Agency] rule-making task force on vertiports, and closely working with the civil aviation authorities in Europe, Asia, and across the Atlantic. That’s part of the VoloPort design — we know there are certain regulations and standards that have to be adhered to.

The second point is that we are of course the designer and manufacturer of an aircraft, so we know very well the performance data of our aircraft. I think this is essential — everybody asks about the performance of the aircraft before you can actually design infrastructure that is completely new. Of course, this is an advantage for every OEM [original equipment manufacturer], not just Volocopter.

And thirdly, operations will become the core of our business model. So, we are preparing very heavily to operate the aircraft. I think we have a deep understanding of the whole concept of operations — the vertiports and infrastructure for the design of the vertiport, for the areas and dimensions, as well as everything that happens at the vertiport.

eVTOL.com: What type of partners are you working with, or do you want to work with in the future?

Jörn Jaeger: I think in simple terms, we are looking for partners that complement us to the best extent possible. For example, real estate developers are quite interesting or any business that is looking for a vertiport. Of course, cities and municipalities are natural partners —only with their buy-in can we actually erect vertiports.

Industry partners that can contribute to the solution and make the vertiport work are also highly welcome. As a company, we want to stay asset light. We will concentrate on the operations of our aircraft and work to enable and provide vertiport solutions, but we would not like to actually invest in concrete and steel. So, everybody who can support us and complement our business model is very welcome.

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