Come 3Q2019, Singapore will commence test flights for Asia’s first self-flying taxi service, featuring electrically powered short-distance aircraft operated by German company Volocopter.
Volocopter’s CEO Florian Reuter shared this timeline at Rotorcraft Asia 2019 and Unmanned Systems Asia 2019 yesterday, adding that the trials are supported by public and private entities including the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and ST Engineering.
Meant to complement existing transport systems – from international flights to the conventional taxis – the air taxi solution is similar to a ride-hailing platform, where passengers can access the service via a booking app.
Each aircraft flies two persons for a distance of less than 30km, and is powered by nine independent battery packs and 18 overhead propellers. While the aircraft can be manoeuvred autonomously, initial public flights will be operated with a certified pilot.
Reuter shared that the starting cost of each trip will be higher than regular taxi fares, but in the long run the pricing of Volocopter rides can be comparable to their land counterparts.
Allaying concerns about safety, he assured that the aircrafts are “as safe as commercial airlines”. He added that the vehicles are “extremely quiet”.
“We want this vehicle to be as minimally intrusive as possible. There’s a lot of thought that has gone into designing the Volocopter to make it perfect vehicle for urban air mobility,” said Reuter.
Tan Chun Wei, deputy director, transformation programmes, CAAS, confirmed that the test flights will be conducted in the southern region of Singapore and over water. Reuter said that discussions with involved parties could open up cross-border routes to popular nearby destinations such as Johor and Bintan.
“There’s a lot of interesting things to learn from Singapore and (see) how we can bring this to other cities as well. We are convinced Singapore is the perfect role model and showcase for other cities to replicate what Singapore is establishing,” expressed Reuter.
In September 2017, Volocopter put its first autonomous two-seater aircrafts to the test in Dubai. In February, Frankfurt Airport and Volocopter inked a deal to develop concepts for ground infrastructure and operations required for air taxi services. Volocopter opened its Singapore office in January.