Volocopter, the German aviation startup, is now accepting reservations for flights on its 18-rotor electric aircraft. This is the first time members of the public are being invited to fly in the company’s battery-powered vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle.
Volocopter won’t say exactly where or when the flights will take place, so reserve your ticket with a degree of caution. The flights will take place “within 12 months” after Volocopter’s commercial launch which is expected in “2-3 years,” a spokesperson said. As for where, Volocopter has conducted flight tests in Singapore, Helsinki, Dubai, and its headquarters in Bruchsal, Germany — so most likely in one of those cities.
Tickets cost €300 ($355) and can be reserved with a 10 percent deposit. But there will only be 1,000 presale reservations made available and only for a limited time, Volocopter said. The flight will only be 15 minutes in length or €20 for each minute of airtime.
“While the final certification for air taxis is still pending, we do have a detailed realistic timeline to launch commercial VoloCity flights in the next 2-3 years,” said Volocopter’s chief commercial officer Christian Bauer in a statement. “Moreover, those who reserve now can receive the latest updates about our progress and the commercial launch plan.”
Volocopter recently demonstrated its electric aircraft at a tech conference in Singapore, complete with a temporary “VoloPort” landing pad that was meant to illustrate a future in which we use electric VTOL vehicles to hop from rooftop to rooftop in dense urban settings.
Volocopter’s 2X aircraft is a small, egg-like multicopter fitted with a wide halo of 18 rotors. It is essentially an air taxi, built to ferry only one passenger at a time over the congestion, overcrowding, and road closures below. But instead of facilitating high-volume air travel between cities like an airport, Volocopter wants to focus on local point-to-point travel.
It sounds fantastical, but Volocopter has plenty of believers backing up its vision. Last year, the company raised €50 million ($55.3 million) in a funding round led by Geely, the Chinese parent company of Volvo Cars. In addition, Geely entered into a joint venture with Volocopter to bring the startup’s aircraft to China. Other investors include Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, and Intel.
Volocopter’s ability to attract attention and cash from so many boldfaced names is notable because electric flight is extremely hard to do — some even would say impossible in a commercial sense. Flying requires an incredible amount of energy, and present battery technology just doesn’t offer the power-to-weight ratio needed to achieve liftoff. Most experts predict that it will be years, if not decades, before battery technology can catch up.
That’s probably why Volocopter envisions its aircraft operating only over short distances. Its 2X prototype — the one with 18 rotors — features a flight time of 30 minutes and a maximum range of 27 km (17 miles), though Volocopter says the batteries can be quickly swapped to compensate for those numbers until the tech improves.