Investors are betting big that flying taxis will one day be just another way people get around. One of the best-funded companies working on making flight as easy as opening an app is German unicorn Volocopter, which has just raised a $182m in additional Series E funding.
The funds come from NEOM, a smart city project in Saudi Arabia, and GLy, a Hong Kong mobility fund. The money brings the total size of Volocopter’s Series E to over $350m, making it the largest deeptech round in Germany so far this year.
The money will be used to get full aircraft certification from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and launch the company’s first commercial routes, says Christian Bauer, chief commercial officer of Volocopter. It will also fund the development of its production facilities in Germany.
Volcopter is racing against US-based Joby Aviation to launch the first commercial air taxi services. Both are planning a 2024 launch. German startup Lilium plans to follow them with a launch in 2025.
Plans for flight in Paris, Singapore, Rome and NEOM
Volocopter plans to launch its flying taxi services in Paris in time for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics. Customers will be able to take their mobile phone and reserve a sightseeing flight or get a lift to the city centre from the airport, Bauer tells Sifted.
The startup has been working with Paris airport operators and public transport providers to get ready for the launch and conducted its first crewed flight in France earlier this year.
Within the next two years, Volocopter aims to start flying in Singapore, Rome and NEOM. Volocopter is also working with Geely Holding, one of the backers of GLy, to bring the electric air taxis to China — the large number of megacities in the country makes it a large potential market for flying taxis.
According to Bauer, Volocopter’s electric flying taxis are specifically designed for the urban environment. They are far quieter, safer and more convenient than a helicopter and much more efficient at vertical take off and landing.
Volocopter is still working out the pricing of taking a ride in a flying taxi, but Bauer says they will be available to “any customer that can afford a premium taxi service”. Prices should get cheaper over time, and become much more affordable when the company launches its fully autonomous vehicles — which Beuer expects to happen about five years after the launch of its first flying taxis.
Clara Rodríguez Fernández is Sifted’s deeptech correspondent, based in Berlin. Follow her on LinkedIn.