German electric takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft developer Volocopter is moving fast to expand the types of planes it plans to put into operation, revealing it completed maiden flights of its extended-range VoloConnect vehicle parallel to its work preparing the short hop VoloCity air taxi for certification.
Bruchsal-based Volocopter said it conducted the first flight of a VoloConnect in May in a two-minute, 14-second outing and has since tested the eVTOL air taxi aloft twice more. The company calls the development significant for several reasons, not least of which being that by diversifying the capacities and maximal ranges of its craft, it has expanded its estimated potential market base to $290 billion.
Volocopter says the milestone also makes it the first next-generation eVTOL company with two entirely different craft prototypes in operation.
While Volocopter’s two-seat VoloCity – with a maximum range of 35 km and top speed of 110 km/h – is intended for urban air taxi use, the four-passenger VoloConnect can transport people between cities 100 km apart at a top velocity of 250 km/h. That, the company says, will be a boon to business travelers and commuters racing between city centers like Los Angeles and surrounding areas like Burbank or Huntington Beach – routes now usually traveled by car on frequently jammed highways.
Adding Volocopter’s drones to the mix, the company says it will soon be offering a trio of eVTOL solutions, with VoloCity air taxis expected to go into service in 2024, and VoloConnect commuter operations two years later.
“Having a whole family of electric aircraft in the test flight phase is a pioneering feat,” said Florian Reuter, Volocopter CEO, who will hand the reins to new boss Dirk Hoke in August. “Volocopter’s leadership in the industry stems from announcing plans and then delivering on them visibly with public test flights. Our technology platform is the foundation for our family of aircraft approach and has proven to deliver results at an astounding speed. Volocopter is bringing these innovative designs off the ground, into the air, and then to cities worldwide!”
News of eVTOL VoloConnect’s making its first flights was also surprising in that Volocopter only launched work to prepare the extended-range air taxi’s takeoff 17 months ago. The initial tests focused on verifying of the craft’s forward and sideways speed capacities. The company will be ramping up trials in coming months.
“This is an extraordinary moment for us – seeing the VoloConnect soar to the sky marks the achievement of one of our key milestones and demonstrates just what we are capable of in a short time and in line with the company’s overall strategy for crewed and uncrewed aircraft,” says Sebastian Mores, VoloConnect’s chief engineer. “Furthermore, new technologies will be tested that will gradually be implemented during the overall program development.”