Volocopter completes air taxi trials in Saudi Arabia

  • June 26, 2023
  • Steve Rogerson

German urban air mobility (UAM) company Volocopter has completed a series of air taxi test flights in Neom, the smart and sustainable regional development in north-west Saudi Arabia.

This marks the first time an eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft has received a special flight authorisation and performed test flights in Saudi Arabia.

The flight test campaign lasted over a week and built on 18 months of collaboration between Neom, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and Volocopter, with the aim of implementing and scaling an electric UAM ecosystem and testbed in Neom. The parties worked closely to ensure regulatory compliance and safety ahead of the test campaign.

“The successful test flight of a Volocopter eVTOL is not just another milestone on the journey towards the creation of Neom’s innovative, sustainable, multimodal transportation system, it is a tangible example of Neom as a global accelerator and incubator of solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges,” said Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of Neom. “Driving the development of smart, sustainable and safe mobility systems will improve liveability and connectivity in cities around the world and reduce carbon emissions, creating a cleaner future for all.”

Abdulaziz A Al-Duailej, president of GACA, added: “This safe and successful test flight represents an important milestone of the Saudi aviation sector and another steady step towards achieving the aviation sector’s strategy, through innovation and employing emerging technologies to create new industries that contribute to the output GDP and create more jobs. It also confirms GACA’s commitment to enabling the safe integration of innovative air transport patterns that improve the mobility experience of individuals in urban areas and the quality of life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Neom and Volocopter share a joint vision of creating a better future through innovative, clean technology. As part of a multimodal transportation system, electric air mobility reflects Neom’s ambition to revolutionise mobility and transform people’s lives.

In 2021, Neom and Volocopter founded a joint venture to scale air mobility, positioning Neom as a collaborative, global living lab for the future of transportation.

“It is beyond exciting to see our work from the past 18 months come to fruition,” said Christian Bauer, chief commercial officer of Volocopter. “As the first eVTOL aircraft to ever test in Saudi Arabia, we are proud to have lain the groundwork for our future collaboration here in Neom.”

The test campaign focused on the flight performance of the Volocopter aircraft in local climate and environmental conditions, as well as testing its integration into the local unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) system.

Volocopter eVTOLs will be key to Neom’s smart and sustainable multimodal mobility system, which will be powered by 100% renewable energy generated by solar and wind energy sources. They will be used in various roles, including as air taxis and emergency response vehicles, and are quieter, more easily adaptable, and cheaper to operate than the helicopters often employed today. They have a smaller on-ground infrastructure footprint and fewer operating restrictions, and they employ smart and autonomous capabilities that ensure safety.

The test flight announcement builds on Neom’s €175m investment and joint venture with Volocopter.

Volocopter expects to obtain type certification for its VoloCity air taxi in 2024, enabling future commercial operations. Volocopter recently announced the commencement of VoloCity serial production at its facilities in Bruchsal, Germany, with a capacity to deliver more than 50 aircraft a year.