As the world’s elite athletes focus on next summer’s Olympic Games in Paris, flying taxis are also preparing to make history.
German-based aviation start-up Volocopter is aiming to have its two-seater electric aircraft carrying passengers around Paris – which would make it the first service in Europe to use an electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) aircraft.
Volocopter told the BBC it hopes its emission-free VoloCity aircraft will be approved by the European aerospace regulator, EASA. The company hopes to start flights in the next few months so everything will be in place for next summer’s games.
If approved, it will operate three routes connecting the centre of Paris with the city’s airports and heliport, as well as offering sightseeing trips.
Volocopter chief financial officer Christian Bauer told the BBC: “Everything is ready and set to go for the middle of next year.”
The VoloCity has a range of 22 miles, which is ideal for short city hops, but does not currently compare to that of a helicopter, train or car.
It is an issue acknowledged by Volocopter and other EVTOL manufacturers, who know they need to show there is a market for the technology, as well as practical considerations such as maintenance and taxi insurance.
Mr Bauer told the BBC his company recognises the challenges ahead. He said: “What is hindering us is right now the battery technology, which all the peers are right now working on.
“We will be starting with more premium prices at around a helicopter segment pricing. And then we will gradually go down, with a big step, when we have a four-or-five-seater model in place.”
He said more powerful, cheaper batteries will emerge, allowing Volocopter to build a bigger aircraft that will be able to offer services at lower prices.
Volocopter has spent 12 years developing its air taxis, cargo drones, and longer-range passenger aircraft for major cities. It hopes this will create more room on the streets, relieving congestion, pollution, and offering affordable and sustainable transport.
The technology has come a long way in a relatively short space of time and it will be interesting to see how things progress over the next few years.
Pollution is a major problem in many large towns and cities and clean air zones and congestion charging have become controversial methods of tackling the issue. Companies such as Volocopter have taken a different approach to it and have tried to come up with a way of getting more people and vehicles off the streets and into the air.
It is a slow and painstaking process which, as with any vehicle or aircraft, has to put safety first. The next step is to make sure it is commercially viable and sustainable with the ultimate goal of getting people to hop aboard a flying taxi as readily as they would jump into a cab or private hire vehicle.
While for many people flying cars and taxis are like something out of sci-fi movies or The Jetsons cartoons they grew up with, it is incredible that they are now on the verge of becoming a reality.
A high-profile event such as the Olympic Games would be the perfect setting to showcase the VoloCity – which could attract more attention than the athletes competing.
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