Air taxi to launch in SG within 3 years, aiming to aid with tourism sector first

German urban air mobility company Volocopter will be working closely with The Economic Development Board of Singapore (EDB) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to launch air taxi services in Singapore within the next three years. According to a press release, this comes after Volocopter had two years of close collaboration with Singapore.

Volocopter air taxis are said to be emission-free, electrically powered aircraft that take-off and land vertically. They are designed as an addition to urban mobility and will fly up to two passengers directly and quietly to their destination.

The first route for the service is expected to be a touristic route over the southern waters, offering breath-taking views of the Marina Bay skyline. Volocopter added that this could provide Singapore with a new attraction to enhance Singapore’s tourism industry in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow-on connections may also include cross-border flights, which may enhance regional connectivity and offer a significantly improved travel experience to Singapore’s closest economic centers, the press release added.

Leading up to the launch of commercial operations, Volocopter said it will build up a team of 50 pilots, engineers, operation specialists, and business managers in the next three years. The company is expected to hire over 200 full-time employees in Singapore to manage a network of Singapore routes by 2026. Volocopter has also initiated research and development projects with local institutions, starting with Fraunhofer Singapore at the Nanyang Technological University. In preparation for the launch, Volocopter has also founded Volocopter Asia and hired Hon Lung Chu as its head of Asia Pacific in Singapore.

According to Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter, the company chose Singapore to launch commercial air taxi services because Singapore is renowned for its “leading role” in adapting and living new technologies. “Our successful cooperation with EDB, MOT, and CAAS on our previous flight has shown that there is no better place in Asia to launch our electric air taxi services than in Singapore,” Reuter added.

He also said Singapore research institutes’ research and development efforts in the area play an integral part in its decision, adding that topics such as route validation for autonomous operations, material science, and research regarding battery technology are very important for its long-term business success.

In October 2019, Volocopter completed the air taxi demonstration flight in Singapore over the Marina Bay area, giving observers the unique opportunity to have a sense of how urban air mobility will look. Prior to the flight, the company opened a Singapore office in 2019, and is said to have conducted extensive flight tests, as well as worked closely with several key stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Transport (MOT) and CAAS, to receive the necessary permits to fly then. 

Before launching air taxi services in Singapore, Volocopter said in its press release that it will obtain the necessary regulatory approvals, including those from CAAS and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. The company added that it has to conduct comprehensive tests, flight trials, and evaluations before approval to commence commercial air taxi operations can be granted.

Tan Kong Hwee, executive vice president, EDB, said urban air mobility is an emerging area within the broader mobility sector, which the organisation has identified as a growth industry for Singapore. “Singapore is an important regional testbed for autonomous cars, electric vehicles, and urban air mobility, including the successful test flight by Volocopter in 2019. We are glad that Volocopter has chosen Singapore to anchor its commercial and research and development activities. This will help build new capabilities for our mobility ecosystem and create many exciting opportunities for Singapore,” Tan added.  

Tan Kah Han, senior director, unmanned systems group, of CAAS added that the launch of the air taxi services gives CASS the opportunity to co-create regulations and technologies with the industry, facilitating innovation to enable a future mode of transportation for Singapore.

Although transporting passengers through air is a relatively new concept, air delivery itself is not. Earlier in August, foodpanda launched a drone-based food delivery initiative in collaboration with ST Engineering called pandaFly. The launch was kickstarted by delivering an order of five packets of Ayam Penyet (“smashed” fried chicken) from Marina South Pier to PACC Offshore Services Holdings (POSH) Vessel, located 3km off the pier, in under 10 minutes. With the usage of drones, foodpanda aims at making long-distance deliveries better, faster and cheaper for all customers, allowing them to immediately receive their choice of food from any place. pandaFly is intended as a complement to its pandariders (current delivery staff). 

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