If the pandemic wasn't enough of a distribution to the travel industry, things are about to get an even bigger shake-up. Since 2011, German-based Urban Air Mobility company Volocopter has been on a race to become the first-to-market company supplying electric vertical take-off and landing (eVOTL) aircraft on a global basis. With $170 million in its pocket from its latest funding round, together with European Aviation Safety Agency approval, it looks well on the way to achieving its goal. Find out how Volocopter could soon be changing your long and short distance travel with these 20 key facts.
1. It was founded by Alexander Zosel and Stephan Wolf
Volocopter was founded by Alexander Zosel and Stephan Wolf in 2011. According to topionetworks.com, Zosel's talent for invention kicked in at the age of 15 when he and a few friends built one of the first skateboard halfpipes in Germany. At university, he studied civil engineering, developing his first patent while still a student. He currently serves as Volocopter's Chief Information Officer. Prior to founding Volocopter, Wolf spent over 25 years in software development. It was his vision that led to the distributed redundant system that serves as the foundation for each Volocopter aircraft. He now puts his extensive experience to good use as the company's Chief Software Advisor.
2. It broke a European record for crowdsourcing
These days, Volocopter has an army of willing investors around the world to tap for cash. But back in 2013, things were a little different. A year before CEO Florian Reuter transformed Volocopter from a tiny company with a handful of employees into a billion-dollar unicorn with an international presence, founders Stephan Wolf and Alexander Zosel decided to raise some funds at a crowdsourcing event. Over two and a half days, they raised a massive €1.2 million, smashing the previous European record for crowdsourcing.
3. A change in language led to huge growth
Volocopter was founded by two Germans and has its headquarters in the German city of Bruchsal. Naturally enough, the company's language of choice for the first few years of its life was German. However, when Florian Reuter joined the company as CEO in 2015, he made a series of changes - starting with its business language. Although German had worked while Volocopter consisted of a small team of five working solely with local talent and German regulators, its ambition to expand beyond national borders required a shift in mindset. Reuter switched the business language of the company to English, instructed the translation of all the company's internal and technical documents, and in the process, took the company one step closer to global domination.
4. It employs over 500 people
Seven years ago, Volocopter was a small, German-based company employing around 15 people. Fast forward to today, and it's now a multi-national cooperation employing over 500 people worldwide. In addition to maintaining headquarters and three testing and development sites in Bruchsal, Germany, the company also has a development site in Munich that's dedicated to their heavy-lift product, the VoloDrone, and upcoming projects such as the VoloConnect, along with an office in Singapore.
5. VoloCity is its latest and most ambitious project
Since its inception, Volocopter has built several different vehicles, the latest of which is VoloCity. The fourth-generation eVOTL aircraft is more powerful than anything the company has attempted so far, with the ability to reach an airspeed of up to 110 km/h over a 35 km range. The aircraft is capable of transporting two passengers and features 18 rotors. Designed to work in combination with Volocopter's VoloPorts, the VoloCity aims to promote faster, more convenient travel by connecting passengers with key transportation hubs like airports and railway stations. So far, the VoloCity has received permits to fly in numerous cities, including Dubai, Singapore, Hamburg, and Helsinki.
6. It's conducted over 1000 test flights
Volocopter began launching its first flights in 2011, and so far, has conducted over 1000 test flights. Some of those flights have been uncrewed, others have been crewed, but each has been used as a learning experience to take the company one step closer to its goal of becoming the safest and most technologically advanced air taxi operator in the world. Safety is very much at the forefront of Volocopter's designs, with each aircraft developed to meet the exacting standards of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The VoloCity aircraft features multiple redundant systems to ensure that if the rotors, electric motors, batteries, avionics, or display fail, there are at least two replacements waiting in the wings as backup.
7. It made its French debut in 2021
In June 2021, Volocopter took to the skies above Paris, France for the first public flight demonstration of an electrically powered air taxi in the country. The remote-controlled flight lasted 3 minutes and took place at Le Bourget Airfield during the Paris Air Forum. During the flight, the Volocopter 2X traveled 500 meters at a height of 30 meters and at a speed of 30 km/h. Volocopter is currently working in cooperation with the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC – Direction générale de l’aviation civile) to bring air taxi services to the Île-de-France region in time for the 2024 Olympic Games
8. It's cozying up to Aviation Capital Group LLC
In February 2022, Volocopter announced a new agreement in principle with Aviation Capital Group LLC (ACG) to devise financing solutions to assist with the sale of Volocopter’s aircraft for up to $1 billion. The agreement will offer Volocopter customers the chance to lease the aircraft through the same flexible, secure financing schemes widely used in the rest of the aviation industry. Speaking about the agreement, Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter said: “This agreement will allow our business to hit the ground running after aircraft certification. It signifies ACG’s and our investor Tokyo Century’s trust in Volocopter’s leadership in the UAM market. We are grateful for this partnership as this financing represents another cornerstone of the essential ecosystem for scaling UAM.”
9. It's got some stiff competition
As siliconcanals.com outlines, Volocopter is by no means the only start-up making waves in the aviation industry. Just a few of the other company's competing in the same space include Munich-based air taxi startup Lilium, whose electric vertical take-off and landing (eVOTL) aircraft was trailed last year and is expected to eventually grow into a fleet of jets transporting passengers between Manhattan and Kennedy International Airport in just 10 minutes for a cost of $70 per passenger; Airbus, whose currently working on a four-seat unmanned all-electric mulicopter eVTOL vehicle; Wingcopter, a German based company developing a fleet of unmanned eVTOL aircraft primarily designed to deliver foods, parcels, and goods; and Heart Aerospace, a Swedish startup set on delivering point-to-point transportation between Scandinavian cities before expanding globally.
10. It ran its first autonomous flying car test in Dubai
In 2017, Volocopter took a giant step forward on its journey to dominating the autonomous vehicle space when it showed off the capabilities of its urban air taxi in Dubai. Held in collaboration with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority, the event marked the first successful public flight in Volocopter's history. Held at the end of several weeks of intensive safety assessments at the test site, the Volocopter flew a distance of 500 meters over 8 minutes, reaching heights of 60 meters. In attendance at the event was the billionaire ruler of Dubai and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Dubai is currently expecting to transition 25% of all passenger travel around the city to autonomous transportation by 2030.
11. It's the first company to get EASA approval
It might have a big pack of competitors nipping at its heels, but so far, Volocopter seems to be making the most headway in the race to become the first commercially viable manufacturer of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Regardless of how good an aircraft is in theory, it's going nowhere (at least with people inside) without the requisite approval. Fortunately, Volocopter already has the advantage on that score, being the first eVTOL company to get the ‘Design Organisation Approval' from the European Aviation Safety Authority. Providing it continues to move at the same pace and in the same direction, that approval gives it a good shot of taking to the skies before its competitors move in.
12. It's gone an unexpected route
Considering the sphere it operates in, you'd have expected Volocopter to partner with an aircraft manufacturer. Instead, they've teamed up with German auto giant Daimler and several other international car manufacturers. The reason comes down to scale - whereas aircraft manufacturers build one aircraft at a time, auto makers are used to producing fleets of hundreds of thousands, a difference that highlights just how grand Volocopter's potential, and ambition, is.
13. It's made history in South Korea
In 2021, Volocopter launched the first crewed public test flight of a fully electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) air taxi in South Korean history when its 2X aircraft took to the skies above Gimpo International Airport in Seoul. Attending the event was The Republic's Minister for Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MOLIT) Noh Hyeong Ouk. The aircraft covered 3 km over the 5-minute flight, reaching speeds of 45 km/h.
14. It launched its first flight in Singapore in 2019
In October 2019, Volocopter completed its first manned flight over Singapore’s Marina Bay after receiving support from the Ministry of Transport (MOT), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), and the Economic Development Board (EDB). According to Yahoo.com, the flight covered around 1.5 km and lasted for two minutes at a cruising height of around 40 m.
15. It's transforming Singapore's air space
Volocopter launched its first manned test flight in Singapore in 2019, and now plans to move forward with an Asian expansion that will not only introduce a fleet of 10 to 20 air taxis around Marina Bay and Sentosa, but will also fly to popular tourist destinations in Indonesia and Malaysia. Providing all of the necessary approvals are obtained, the company aims to roll out the plans within the next 2 years.
16. It's about to transform Chinese parcel delivery
If Volocopter's plans stay on track, residents of the Chinese city of Chengdu could soon be saying goodbye to their usual parcel delivery agents. As Businesstimes.com reports, the company is expecting to start rolling out parcel delivery services using drones in the city early next year in a venture alongside its long term partner, Geely Automobile Holdings. Providing government approval s granted, the venture will also include air taxi services.
17. It just picked up $170 million in funding
According to Crunchbase, Volocopter has raised over $598.6 million in funding since its inception. Its latest round of funding closed on March 4th, 2022, at $170 million, pushing Volocopter's pre-valuation of $1.7B to a post-money valuation of $1.87B. The funding round was led by two new backers, South Korea-based WP Investment and multinational conglomerate Honeywell, with previous investors Atlantia, Whysol, and btov Partners also participating. Other backers who've contributed to previous rounds include Geely, Mercedes-Benz Group, Intel Capital, and BlackRock.
18. It's on the route to going public
Further to its most recent funding round, Volocopter hinted at the possibility of an IPO in the not too distant future, with Chief Commercial Officer Christian Bauer commenting that after focusing on their first-to-certification and first-to-market strategies, the next step will be to embark on the path to public listing.
19. It's about to get a new CEO
After 7 years at the helm, Florian Reuter announced his decision to step aside from the CEO position at Volocopter this March. His replacement will be former CEO of Airbus Defence & Space, Dirk Hoke. In a press release confirming the transition, Reuter said: "I have known Dirk for a number of years and am convinced his experience are a perfect match for Volocopter. It has been an incredible privilege and honor to serve as CEO to a world-class team from across the globe. I’m proud of the team and wish Dirk all the best on the great journey ahead.”
20. It believes in the power of partnerships
Volocopter might be looking to become the first commercially viable air taxi transportation system in the world, but it's not doing it alone. Since its inception, it's partnered with numerous other companies across the fields of infrastructure, operations, and air traffic management in a bid to further its development. Just a few of the partners to join forces with the company include UAM, Urban Blue, Microsoft, Allianz, Daimler, DB Schenker, and Fraport.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee