The experimental smart city know as Neom is partnering with German urban air mobility (UAM) company Volocopter to create a tailor-made electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aerial system integrated within its wider multi-modal, zero-emission public transit network.
The selection of Volocopter to create the UAM system for the future-facing city serves to reinforce the company’s status as one of the leading actors and eVTOL vehicle producers in looming aerial services like air taxis. Funded by Saudi Arabia, Neom is conceived to be a cutting-edge smart city spanning the Saudi-Egyptian border, covering 26,500 square kilometers along a 460-kilometer strip of Red Sea coast. The first tranche of the estimated $500 billion futuristic urban project is slated for completion somewhere around 2025.
In orchestrating the UAM aspect of Neom’s operation, Volocopter becomes a joint venture partner in the design, implementation, and operation of its eVTOL public mobility network. That company will act as the unique operator of initial public transit routes across the city, and gradually open the blossoming ecosystem up to service providers in logistics, emergency response, and tourism activities.
Equally beneficial to the manufacturing side of Volocopter’s business, the deal also involves a firm order of 15 of the company’s eVTOL aircraft. That covers 10 VoloCity passenger copters and five VoloDrone logistics vehicles, which will enter initial UAM operations within the next three years.
“We are incredibly excited and proud to partner with Volocopter to make vertical mobility a reality here at Neom,” says Florian Lennert, head of mobility in the city. “Volocopter is internationally recognized for leading innovation in the eVTOL industry and is a perfect match for our ambitious goals to create the first truly sustainable, shared, and seamlessly integrated mobility system in the world. Volocopter’s expertise, experience, and vision will allow us to lead the design and implementation of eVTOL operations regionally and globally.”
The joint venture company plans to scale activities from the beginning of 2022 as it incubates the nascent UAM ecosystem. Creation of Neom as a state-of-the-art smart city with public air transport services centered on eVTOL vehicles represents both a huge challenge, and potentially enormous opportunity for Volocopter.
On the one hand it requires building a modern, connected transport network entirely powered by emissions-free, renewable energy resources without the usual road, rail, and traditional air infrastructure to facilitate that. On the other, starting from scratch averts the problems related to integrating new locomotion tech into those established, heavy operations.
“The partnership with Neom and the new JV we are creating together is going to be an exciting journey,” says Volocopter chief commercial officer Christian Bauer. “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be an essential part of designing and operating a completely new UAM ecosystem from the ground up without the constraint of legacy infrastructure or regulation, and as pioneers in the industry, Volocopter is honored to be the trusted partner to contribute to NEOM’s ambitious vision.”
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