Italy took a significant step closer to the launch of advanced air mobility (AAM) services with an event at Rome’s Fiumicino’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport featuring the country’s first crewed test flight of an electric takeoff and landing (eVTOL) plane designed for use as an air taxi.
Operator Aeroporti di Roma (ADR) staged the eVTOL trial in cooperation with AAM developer Atlantia, Volocopter, and ADR’s UrbanV unit dedicated to preparing vertiports needed to enable planned 2024 introduction of air taxi service in Italy. In addition to providing feedback to advance work toward the rollout of that activity to and from Rome, the test will aid UrbanV’s vertiport partnership with other Italian aerial hubs Aeroporto di Venezia and Aeroporto Guglielmo Marconi di Bologna, and Nice’s Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur in France.
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The flight portion of the Italian demonstration involved a crewed Volocopter 2X eVTOL simulating air taxi flight – albeit one navigating a figure-eight pattern over a five-minute period at 40 meters of altitude, and top speeds of 40 km/h. Italy’s civil aviation authority, Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile, and air traffic control company Ente Nazionale Assistenza al Volo were involved in preparation and monitoring of the trial as a warmup of their respective roles in the nation’s future AAM ecosystem.
The aerial test was followed with a tour of Rome airport’s vertiport dedicated to future AAM operation. The facility is built around Volocopter’s VoloIQ digital platform, which will orchestrate passenger booking, flight operations, and the broader array of activity that will be part of future air taxi transportation.
The vertiport is being developed using European Union Aviation Safety Agency specifications for test flights and ground operation of AAM craft, including battery swaps and charging of eVTOLs designed for air taxi use. The facility covers around 5,500 square meters, and is made up of a takeoff and landing pad, battery charging zone, parking area, 20 x 20 x 6-meter covered hangar, and a warehouse.
Organizers noted the Rome air taxi test flight – conducted at its fully functional vertiport – took place only a year after a demo Volocopter eVTOL had been put on display inside the main airport to give travelers a sneak preview of what the future holds. That transition from static display to real flight and simulated ground service operation, they say, offers an indication just how fast development of AAM activity is advancing ahead of the planned 2024 launch.
“Today’s event represents a significant milestone in our path as pioneers in testing and implementing Advanced Air Mobility in Italy, and in playing our part in making urban transports increasingly sustainable and seamless,” commented Marco Troncone, CEO of ADR. “The opening of the first vertiport in Italy and the first crewed eVTOL flight represent a remarkable step towards the activation of the first AAM routes between Fiumicino airport and Rome city center by the end of 2024… to offer our contribution to our city and our institutions in welcoming the international tourist flows with a groundbreaking, innovative service.”
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Recent studies by EASA and the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility project an estimated market of AAM in Europe – from vehicle research and development to navigational systems and infrastructure construction as well as passenger travel – of around €4.2 billion by 2030.