The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Saudi Tech City Neom Set To Become Urban Air Mobility Incubator

Neom, the regional development project in northwestern Saudi Arabia, intends to launch urban air mobility services by 2024. The government-backed initiative to build a community based on new sustainable technology announced a joint venture with Volocopter and said that it will buy 15 of its eVTOL aircraft. The provisional order covers 10 of the two-seat VoloCity vehicles and five of the fully autonomous VoloDrone cargo-carrying model.

Under the agreement signed on December 1, the partners will develop what they called a public vertical mobility system in Neom on the country’s Red Sea coast. This will include a new “industrial city” called Oxagon and a residential community called The Line that will extend for just over 100 miles and have a population of one million people. Developers claim the new communities will be powered entirely from renewable energy sources with, “zero cars, zero streets, and zero carbon emissions.”

The venture will be the sole operator of initial public transit services across Neom, which covers 10,200 square miles and is being developed with a budget of $500 billion as part of a Saudi government plan to reduce its economic dependence on oil revenues. The partners said that infrastructure will be developed in a way that can be used by other types of eVTOL aircraft, and rival companies will be able to provide services such as logistics and emergency response.

Neom and Germany-based Volocopter intend to start design and development work in early 2022 on what they describe as “a three-dimensional public transportation system.” Neom, which was launched in 2019, says that among its objectives as an incubator for new technology is to be “a living lab for future mobility and a center of excellence for eVTOL innovation and industry.” Development plans also include a new international airport.

“In designing cities and urban infrastructure for the 21st century, mobility is at the center of the equation,” commented Neom CEO Nahhmi Al-Nasr. “Through the joint venture with Volocopter, we are demonstrating to the world that Neom is the ideal region to implement urban air mobility rapidly and create a fully integrated vertical mobility ecosystem.”

Meanwhile, Volocopter has declined to comment on a November 27 report in German financial media outlet FinanceFWD claiming that the start-up has given up on plans to go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company. A spokeswoman confirmed that the company has written to its existing Seedmatch crowdfund backers, but did not comment on what has been communicated to them or to Volocopter’s other financial backers.