Volocopter plans to launch its first commercial electric flight cab service in Singapore within the next three years, likely initially on a tourist route along the southern coast. In preparation for the upcoming launch, the German company has established Volocopter Asia Holding.
Volocopter says it has now made a corresponding commitment after two years of close cooperation with the city. In the venture, the company’s new offshoot, with Hon Lung Chu as head of Asia Pacific, will cooperate with the Economic Development Board (EDB) of Singapore and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). Singapore has a keen interest in a speedy launch of the service, as it positions the city-state as a pioneer of commercial air taxi services in Asia.
Volocopter already completed the first manned test flight with its electric 2X aircraft over Marina Bay in October 2019. The company has opened an office in Singapore and conducted extensive flight tests there. Cooperation with the Ministry of Transport there and CAAS also began ergo even before the maiden flight. That could now have a positive impact, as Volocopter needs regulatory approval from CAAS, as well as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), for its planned e-flight taxi service. Velocopter says that “EASA’s recently announced working agreement with CAAS on type certificate validation facilitates this approval by enabling simultaneous validation by both authorities in close coordination.”
Until the first commercial routes open, Volocopter will build a local team of 50 people and conduct extensive testing and flight trials, assessments and certification processes. By 2026, the company plans to hire more than 200 full-time employees in Singapore to implement a network of routes. Together with local institutions such as Fraunhofer Singapore at Nanyang Technological University, the company is working on local research and development projects, according to company headquarters.
The first line is expected to be a tourist route along the southern coast, offering views of the Marina Bay skyline. Future connections could include cross-border flights that could improve regional connectivity, particularly to neighboring economic centers, according to Volocopter.
“Singapore is renowned for its leading role in adapting and living new technologies. Our successful cooperation with EDB, MOT, and CAAS on our previous flight has shown that there is no better place in Asia to launch our electric air taxi services than in Singapore,” expressed Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter. The city’s research institutes played an essential role in the process. “Topics like route validation for autonomous operations, material science, and research regarding battery technology are very important for our long-term business success,” Reuter said.
In a press release, Volocopter also cites two voices from Singaporean authorities, with Tan Kong Hwee, executive vice president of the Economic Development Board of Singapore (EDB), saying that Urban Air Mobility is an emerging area within the broader mobility sector identified as a growth industry for Singapore: “Singapore is an important regional testbed for autonomous cars, electric vehicles, and Urban Air Mobility, including the successful test flight by Volocopter in 2019.” He said he was pleased with Volocopter’s commitment. The same goes for Tan Kah Han, senior director of CAAS: “This gives us the opportunity to co-create regulations and technologies with the industry, facilitating innovation to enable a future mode of transportation for Singapore.”
Volocopter air cabs are electrically powered VTOLs. Reminiscent of helicopters, the flying machines are powerful enough to fly two people nearly 30 kilometers, according to the manufacturer. They are said to be so quiet that at a flight altitude of 100 meters they are inaudible against normal urban background noise.