Trials for air taxis will take off in Singapore in the second half of 2019, with German company Volocopter to conduct flight tests.
The company announced this at the Autonomy and the Urban Mobility Summit in Paris on Thursday (Oct 18).
The trials are supported by Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the Economic Development Board (EDB).
The trials are aimed at verifying whether the electrically-powered aircraft, called Volocopters, can operate in Singapore’s urban environment.
The aircraft take off and land vertically, and can fly two people for distances of less than 30km. The aircraft is based on drone technology.
Volocopters can be flown with either fully autonomous with a pilot on a joystick or remote-controlled from the ground. Part of the project will be to determine which mode will be most suitable and appropriate for the trials in Singapore.
The trials will also determine whether there is feasible air routes and how air traffic management system can be implemented in this kind of services. Some other factors are also the humidity and tropical climate, as well as where can the air taxis land.
Public demonstration flights will be conducted after the trials.
MOT and CAAS said the trials will be conducted in controlled locations that will be identified at a later date, and that these will not be areas with human traffic or property.
Noting that safety will be a priority, the joint statement said: “CAAS will work with Volocopter to establish the scope of the flight trials and develop operational guidelines for such flight tests in Singapore. CAAS will set strict guidelines for the conduct of these trials to ensure public safety at all times, and ensure that the necessary requirements are met before flight tests are allowed to commence.”
The authorities added that they were exploring a third dimension to urban mobility through aerial vehicles, and that such drone technologies are “safer, quieter and potentially cheaper than conventional helicopters”.
Other than just passenger rides, air taxis also have the potential to transform mobility and logistics in urban environments.
EDB is supporting Volocopter in its efforts to set up a local product design and engineering team. The company also hopes to work with real-estate developers, mobility providers and businesses in Singapore.
Volocopter said it flies regularly in Germany, where it has held a preliminary permit since 2016. It is working towards a full commercial licence with the European Aviation Safety Agency.
It also performed a public unmanned test flight in Dubai in September 2017.
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