Flying taxis: German projects take the lead

American, German, Chinese, dozens of startups are currently engaged in an innovation race to be the first to develop a drone capable of securing a fully automated air taxi service. After the fire of straw EHang whose flights are still expected to “inhabited”, the wind now seems to turn in favor of German projects. Volocopter and Lilium score points, waiting for the aeronautical giants to seize the subject.

Volocopter selected versus EHang in Dubaï

At the end of an in-situ assessment, the Dubai RTA chose the drone Volocopter to launch the tests of an air transport service which is due to start at the end of 2017.

Who will be the first builder to see his drones deployed as part of an air taxi service with or without a pilot? To this question, the Chinese of EHang seemed well placed since their drone EHang 184, presented at the CES 2015, has already carried out several automatic flights. The first official test took place at the beginning of the year in Dubai where the RTA (Roads and Transport Authority) confronted the Chinese drone to the Volocopter, a German two-seater drone is also propelled by electric motors. We were talking about a commissioning of a eHang 184 Taxi drones service for the summer of 2017. An ultra-tight schedule that was not kept but, in addition to the anticipated delay of the project, c ‘Is the chosen drone that created the surprise. It was the German Volocopter which was chosen to set up an air taxi service from the fourth quarter of 2017. The ability of the Volocopter to be manually controlled probably reassured the RTA that will be able to start the operation of the drone With a pilot on board before authorizing a 100% autonomous mode.

Lilium recruits at Tesla and Airbus

Volocopter scored points in Dubai and announced to have raised 25 million euros, notably from Daimler. Nevertheless, his rival Lilium did not sit idly by. The Munich-based startup flew a first two-seater prototype at scale 1 on 20 April 2017 and took the opportunity to unveil a 5-seater version of its vertical take-off drone, an enlarged version specifically designed to meet the needs Of an air taxi. The Munich project seems less advanced than that of its rival of Stuttgart but the leaders of Lilium have recently decided to accelerate the movement.

1st autonomous flight of the Lilium jet prototype, the 20th of april 2017.

In addition, the startup has just debauched the Gett leader in Europe, the Israeli Uber. Remo Gerber becomes commercial director of Lilium and will be responsible for selling the German drone to future air taxi operators. Another choice for Lilium, Meggy Sailer, former head of talents at Tesla in Europe. She took the lead in recruiting at Lilium. Finally, the startup managed to uncover an Airbus vice-president, Dirk Gebser. He was in charge of the assembly of the Airbus 1320 and A380. It is up to him to set up the means of production in order to produce Volcopter to the chain if the customers meet the expectations of the startup.

If Lilium and Volocopter seem to have gone well in this race for flying taxis, nothing has yet been acquired. Airbus has not yet fired its drone and many projects are in the running, especially in the United States, to win the second inning.

Translation : Google Translate

Sources :
“Lilium recruits senior leaders from Gett, Airbus and Tesla”, Lilium release, August 21, 2017
“Flying Air Taxis from Germany Conquer the World”, Volocopter release, August 1st, 2017
Volocopter as an Autonomous Air Taxi in Dubai, Volocopter release, June 19, 2017
“Lilium celebrates successful flight tests of world’s first electric VTOL jet”, Lilium release, April 20, 2017

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