By Hanno Labuschagne for MyBroadband
German urban air mobility company Volocopter has conducted the first successful test flight of its VoloConnect electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL).
The air taxi is primarily intended for business people and commuters who wish to travel between city centres and suburban areas while avoiding traffic-laden routes.
Volocopter’s team in Munich, Germany, carried out the first test flight of a prototype version of VoloConnect in May 2022, following 17 months of development.
The flight lasted for 2 minutes and 14 seconds, during which the aircraft performed several manoeuvres.
“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,” said VoloConnect chief engineer, Sebastian Mores.
The 4-seater VoloConnect boasts a range of more than 60 miles (96.5km) and a maximum speed of over 155 miles per hour (249km/h).
It features two fixed wings on either side of its main body. These extend into two long poles parallel to the aircraft.
Each of these poles is fitted with six rotors for vertical takeoff, while two high-power electric fans underneath the VoloConnect’s rear uplift-creating wings generate forward movement.
Volocopter said the prototype has all the planned aerodynamics and performance features of the future commercial product.
It is currently passing a series of flight tests to verify that the aircraft and its systems are in line with performance limits and prepared for development.
“This phase encompasses low-speed, transition, high-speed, and engine failure testing for automated and later autonomous flights — all standard-issue tests for eVTOL passenger aircraft manufacturers,” said Volocopter.
“Within the first three test flights of this campaign, the team was able to verify a significant portion of the eVTOL’s envelope with forward speeds up to 40mph (64km/h) and 28mph (45km/h) sideward flight speeds during tests,” it added.
Volocopter is aiming to launch services on the VoloConnect in Los Angeles in 2026.
It is also planning to launch the VoloCity, a smaller multi-rotor air taxi for serving intracity routes, two years before that.