German aviation startup Volocopter has raised $29m (EUR 25m) in funds, from investors including automotive manufacturer Daimler, to develop its autonomous, all-electric ‘flying car’ – amid plans for the trial of the vehicle in Dubai, UAE.
As the name suggests, the vehicle in question is in fact is less ‘flying car’ and more drone, or rather, a multicopter that uses an array of vertically aligned rotor blades to control altitude, pitch and velocity.
Volocopter’s latest product, revealed in April, is the e-Volo 2X: a two-seater multicopter that equips 18 rotor blades to travel for 27km – at a steady cruising speed of 70km/h – on a single charge. The vehicle can then switch batteries to extend its range or recharge in just two hours.
Having worked on the development since 2010, Volocopter has now announced plans to deploy the e-Volo 2X, which has completed 100 manned flights, as the first autonomous air-taxi in Dubai in Q4 2017, in collaboration with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
In the future, a fleet of Volocopters could therefore form part of the solution to the stated aim of the Dubai government to see autonomous vehicles account for 25% of its transport systems by 2030.
In the meantime, the Germany company will use its recent funding to hire more engineers with specialties in developing flight systems, software and electric propulsion, with plans to bring the first fully licensed electric vertical-take-off-and-landing vehicles (VTOL) to market in 2018.
“The strong financial commitment of our new investors is a signal as well as proof of the growing confidence in the newly emerging market for electrically driven VTOLs put to use as personal air taxis,” said Florian Reuter, MD of Volocopter.
“We deliberately sought a mix of investors with strategic and entrepreneurial backgrounds and were able to implement this perfectly with Daimler and Delivery Hero board member Lukasz Gadowski.”
Daimler is now the second major automaker to make an investment in a personal aviation company recently, after Volvo parent company Geely purchased flying car start-up Terrafugia in early July.
Several other companies are also developing VTOLs, including Kitty Hawk, a company backed by Google founder Larry Page, Uber, aircraft manufacturer Airbus, AeroMobil, and startup Lilium Jet.
Below is a video of Alexander Zosel, founder and CEO of Volocopter, taking the previous version of the e-Volo 2x, the e-Volo VC200, for its first manned flight in April 2016.
Earlier this month, Daimler also announced plans for the development of an autonomous valet car parking system for the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.