Volocopter this week confirmed that its four-seat VoloConnect eVTOL aircraft made its first test flight on May 20. During the Up.Partners annual gathering on June 7, the German company said that it now has full-scale prototypes of all three of its eVTOL designs engaged in test flights, including the two-seat VoloCity and the autonomous freight-carrying VoloDrone.
The VoloConnect is expected to be able to fly 60 miles, which is almost three times farther than the VoloCity's limit, and at speeds of 155 mph. The company aims to bring the model into commercial service in 2026, two years after it launches its smaller sibling.
The May 20 first flight in Munich lasted two minutes and 14 seconds. Volocopter started developing the full-scale prototype just 17 months ago, in early 2021, and last year flew a one-third-scaled model.
The lift-and-cruise design features six rotors for vertical flight mounted on beams connecting the wings and the tail section and a pair of electric ducted fan engines at the rear of the fuselage. The aircraft is intended to serve relatively long routes rather than short intra-urban hops and could prove valuable in sprawling metropolitan areas like greater Los Angeles.
Since the first takeoff, it has expanded the flight envelope to achieve 40 mph in forward flight and 28 mph flying sideways. In the coming weeks, Volocopter’s flight test team, led by chief engineer Sebastian Mores, will conduct low- and high-speed maneuvers, transitions between hover and cruise phases of flight, and engine failures for both automated and autonomous flight modes.
“Having a whole family of electric aircraft in the test flight phase is a pioneering feat,” said Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter. “Volocopter’s leadership in the industry stems from announcing plans and then delivering them visibly with public test flights. Our technology platform is the foundation for our family of aircraft approach and has proven to deliver results at an astounding speed.”
According to Volocopter, commercial operations with all three of its eVTOL models will be managed through its VoloIQ digital platform. This will be able to handle all operational tasks, including passenger services and aircraft maintenance.
During the Up.Partners summit meeting, Volocopter said that the total addressable market for all three models is worth in excess of $290 billion.
China-based EHang has already conducted flight tests with its different versions of its EH216 eVTOL, as well asthe earlier EH184 model, and also the larger, longer-range VT-30 vehicle.