Volocopter air taxi flies successfully in controlled airspace

Germany’s Volocopter air taxi has flown a test flight at Helsinki International Airport while integrated with both traditional and unmanned air traffic management (ATM) systems.

Managing the skies in urban environments is a pressing concern as drone and air taxi technology rapidly advances. Developing safe systems to allow unmanned vehicles to operate alongside piloted planes has become a priority for countries and regions hoping to embrace this new wave of aerial innovation. The latest Volocopter flight, which took place on 29 August, is part of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Programme, which aims to create a single coordinated airspace for commercial, general and drone aviation.

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“As air traffic continues to rise in number and kinds – especially with the arrival of unmanned aircrafts and air taxis, the technology and rules for using VLL (Very Low-Level) airspace needs updating, “ said project coordinator Maria Tamm from Estonian Air Navigation Services (EANS).

air taxi
(Credit: Volocopter, V. Kollwig)

“The demonstration at Helsinki airport showed that various systems are ready to safely and efficiently manage air taxi operations, their related services and subsequent interaction within existing aviation and airspace activities.”   

Designed and built in Germany, Volocopter can fly autonomously with two passengers using 18 individual rotors powered by nine swappable batteries. The aircraft has previously been reported as having a top speed of 100km/h and a maximum flight time of around 30 minutes. The piloted Helsinki Airport flight saw Volocopter integrate with AirMapAltitude Angel and Unifly, three different providers of unmanned traffic management (UTM) systems. Supplementary hardware required for the test included a position report sensor.

air taxi
(Credit: ANS Finland)

“We are happy to say that all providers we tested were compatible with the Volocopter systems,” said Jan-Hendrik Boelens, Volocopter CTO. “As a member of the SESAR consortium, we have the rare opportunity to work at the forefront of integrating ATM/UTM with all relevant stakeholders at the table: regulators, airports, air navigation service providers and UTM providers.

“We know that air taxi technology is viable: certification has been defined by the EASA, we will build our first VoloPort infrastructure before the year is out and… now it’s time to bring Urban Air Mobility to life.”