German air taxi maker Volocopter completed a series of flight tests in Neom, the futuristic city being built in Saudi Arabia, as part of the kingdom's push towards sustainable and smart mobility.
This marks the first time an eVTOL, or electric vertical take-off and landing, aircraft performed test flights in Saudi Arabia, Neom said in a statement on Wednesday.
“This safe and successful test flight represents an important milestone of the Saudi aviation sector,” said Abdulaziz Al Duailej, president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation.
This builds on Neom's announcement in 2022 of a $175 million Series E investment in German air mobility company Volocopter. It also follows a joint venture between the two to operate electric air taxi services in the city to connect various areas, including The Line, Oxagon and Trojena.
Volocopter eVTOLs will be key to Neom's smart and sustainable multimodal mobility system, which will be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, Neom said.
Neom in 2021 said it had placed a confirmed order for 15 Volocopter aircraft to begin initial flight operations within the next two to three years. These include an initial order of 10 VoloCity passenger and five VoloDrone logistics aircraft to support early activation of flight operations.
A report by global consultancy Deloitte showed that 2021 was a milestone year for the Advanced Air Mobility market, as eVTOL aircraft companies recoded $5.8 billion in investments.
The Volocopter flight test campaign lasted more than a week, building on 18 months of collaboration between Neom, Gaca and the German company. The aim is to enact and expand an electric urban air mobility system and test bed in Neom.
The flight test focused on the performance of the Volocopter aircraft in the local climate and environmental conditions, as well as testing its integration into the local traffic management system.
Volocopter expects to obtain type certification of its VoloCity air taxi in 2024, allowing for future commercial operations.
The company recently announced the start of VoloCity serial production at its facilities in Bruchsal, Germany, with a capacity to deliver more than 50 aircraft a year under one-shift conditions.
With a maximum airspeed of 110 kilometres per hour, the 18-rotor aircraft has room for a pilot and a passenger.