Consumer app Grab is partnering with eVTOL aircraft developer Volocopter to conduct a joint feasibility study into starting urban air mobility services in Southeast Asia’s largest cities. The study will identify the most suitable cities and routes for launching air taxi services and explore prospects for conducting flight trials.
In a February 18 announcement, the partners said that the study could lead to a wider cooperation to launch urban air mobility services. They expect the study to be completed in the next few months.
Volocopter is developing a two-seat, autonomously operated eVTOL aircraft called Volocity, which it says will complete type certification by the end of 2022. The company intends to operate aircraft itself with taxi services booked via its own app. The aircraft is expected to operate on routes around urban areas of up to around 22 miles and with speeds of up to 69 mph.
Singapore-based Grab's consumer app provides ground-based taxi rides and deliveries of food and packages, as well as digital payments and other financial services. Since it launched in 2012, the app has provided more than four billion rides and is now offers services in 339 cities across Southeast Asia.
Volocopter is not one of eight eVTOL aircraft developers so far selected by Uber as a partner for its planned Uber Air rideshare service. The Germany-based company has yet to indicate any intention to launch service in the U.S. Last year, it conducted a public demonstration of a prototype aircraft in Singapore and also unveiled its Voloport concept for a passenger terminal.
A spokeswoman for Volocopter told FutureFlight that it is too early to say whether the Grab app will eventually be used to market its air taxi services, and that the company is in fact developing its own app too. Volocopter also has not ruled out partnerships with other app providers, such as Uber. "Generally speaking, it is our vision to be customer-facing and own as many customer touchpoints as possible," the company said. "We are open to all kinds of cooperation. Our ultimate goal is to provide the best user experience and greatest value add in our customers' lives. This will guide our decisions on potential future partnerships."
“As a super app that operates across 339 cities in Southeast Asia, Grab has gathered traffic patterns and customer insights in the region that can help our teams come up with the most innovative mobility solutions to plug the gaps in the transport landscape,” commented Grab Ventures head Chris Yeo. “The partnership will enable Volocopter to further develop urban air mobility solutions that are relevant for Southeast Asian commuters so that they can decide on their preferred journey option based on their budgets, time constraints, and other needs in a seamless way.”