The first test flight with a manned air taxi over Rome Airport is a fact

Last week, Volocopter successfully completed a manned test flight with the VoloCity air taxi over Rome’s international . The plan is to create a regular connection between the airport and the city center of Rome by the end of 2024. A first vertiport was constructed at the airport, especially for this purpose.

Avoid traffic jams with a manned air taxi

It still takes about 45 minutes by car to get to the city center from Rome Airport. But during rush hour, that can easily increase to more than an hour. An alternative is a train, which takes about half an hour.

An option may be added in the near future, namely a ride by air taxi. It would only take him twenty minutes. That is, in any case, the plan of the German company , the developer of the two-person VoloCity air taxi. Last week, the first manned test flight was made over Fiumicino’s Leonardo Da Vinci Airport from a newly constructed vertiport.

Air taxi test flight

During the test flight, a prototype of the VoloCity flew several eights for five minutes at a height of 40 meters, at a speed of 40 km/h.

The test flight was conducted with permission from the Italian aviation authority ENAC and in consultation with the air traffic control organization ENAV.

Eighteen electric motors and propellers power the VoloCity air taxi. The device has a top speed of 110 km/h. The maximum range is 35 km.

The MTOW is 900 kg, of which 200 kg is intended for passengers. The electricity comes from nine lithium-ion battery packs, which can be replaced within five minutes between flights.

Urban Air Mobility

The test flight underlines the developments in the field of . The idea is that the third dimension offers plenty of opportunities to avoid congestion on the ground. In the future, both cargo and people can be transported by drone-like aircraft, so-called VTOLs (vertical take-off and landing). Provided that it is electrically powered, this can also be done without emissions, depending on how the energy is generated.

Volocopter is in the race to be one of the first developers of eVTOLs to offer flights in . That should happen for the first time during the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. The idea is that athletes and the public can then use air taxis to be transported to and from the various sports locations.

Certification and Infrastructure

Before flying around with eVTOLs, however, there is still a lot that needs to be done in the area of ​​certification. That takes a lot of effort, especially with completely new flight concepts such as electrically powered multirotor air taxis. All components, subsystems, and procedures must be demonstrably safe and rigorously tested. This while the Certified category, the regulatory framework for future UAM operations, has not even been fully developed yet.

Apart from that, there is still the challenge of building the necessary infrastructure, ranging from standardized vertiports to powerful power connections to charge the batteries: something that certainly could be a bottleneck in the urban environment, according to previous research.

U-space

Initially, the two-person air taxis will still be operated by a pilot on board, so there is room for only one passenger. In time, the aircraft will have to fly autonomously, and there will, therefore, no longer be a pilot on board. To make this possible, however, there must first be a reliably working U-space implementation.

Although the first tests have now been carried out with U-space (including recently conducted test scenarios in the ), it will probably take many years before U-space is fully operational, experts expect. Until then, special corridors may offer a solution.

This article first appeared on Dronewatch and is written by Wiebe de Jager, who is also a DroneXL contributor.

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Wiebe de Jager
Wiebe de Jager

Wiebe de Jager is the founder of Dronewatch and author of several bestselling books about drone photography. Wiebe is a certified drone pilot and has a full ROC license.

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