Saudi Arabia's Neom invests $175m in Volocopter

Joint venture will operate all-electric air taxis in the futuristic city

This rendering shows a Volocopter air taxi over The Oxagon at Neom in Saudi Arabia. Photo: Volocopter
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Neom, the futuristic city being built in Saudi Arabia, has announced a $175 million Series E investment in Volocopter, the German air mobility company.

The equity stake is part of Neom's strategic engagement with the global eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) industry, positioning it as a leader in future mobility solutions, it said.

Neom and Volocopter launched a joint venture in December that will operate electric air taxi services in the city to connect various areas, including The Line, Oxagon and Trojena.

The joint venture will design, integrate and operate the region’s all-electric public flight routes for the initial seven years after it is launched.

“This crucial investment aligns with the ambitious plans announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the chairman of Neom’s board of directors, for the kingdom to achieve sustainability and to develop Neom into an accelerator of human progress," said Nadhmi Al-Nasr, chief executive of Neom.

"Together with the kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation, Neom and Volocopter will make concepts like air taxis an everyday reality for its residents and visitors."


The Line at Neom - in pictures


Electric air taxis are a key component of Neom’s mission to implement a truly sustainable and seamlessly connected multi-modal mobility system powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, it said.

Neom, the $500 billion giga-project, will be treated as a country within a country, with its own economic zone and its own authority, meaning it will be separate from the rules that govern the rest of the kingdom.

People living there would not be referred to as Saudis but would be called by the title “Neomians”, and the development is planned to have millions of residents by 2030.

Neom placed a confirmed order of 15 Volocopter aircraft to start initial flight operations within the next two to three years, according to a statement at the end of last year.

This included an initial order of 10 VoloCity passenger and five VoloDrone logistics aircraft, to support early activation of flight operations.

Volocopter also raised funding from GLy Capital Management of Hong Kong, taking the second signing of its Series E funding round to $182m.

“Attracting Neom and GLy as investors is a great success and highlights our pole position in the commercial certification race," said Dirk Hoke, chief executive of Volocopter.

"This is the key requirement to launching commercial operations and starting to generate revenue.”

Volocopter is the first and only eVTOL company to receive Design Organisation Approval (DOA) from the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and expects to launch its first commercial air taxi routes in the next two years.

Billions of dollars worth of investment has been poured into the eVTOL sector, as companies race to be the first commercial success amid the push for lower carbon emissions.

Joby Aviation was the leading company in the eVTOL industry as of 2021, with $1.6bn in investments, Statista said.

This month, Wisk Aero, a joint venture between the Boeing Company and Kitty Hawk Corporation, unveiled its sixth-generation air taxi that it said was “the most advanced in the world”.

Updated: November 07, 2022, 9:29 AM