Earning public acceptance

If seeing is believing, the couple of hundred people in the image above may now be believers of Volocopter’s plans to begin ferrying cargo over European cities via a fleet of electric-powered drones.

The Germany-based company’s inaugural public flight of its VoloDrone design at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in October was the first of several demonstrations Volocopter plans to conduct over the next year ahead of a planned entry into service in late 2022.

The company aims to showcase “relevant applications” for the VoloDrone design, says Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter. The October flight, conducted near the Port of Hamburg in Germany, illustrated how VoloDrones could quickly ferry goods between ships in different parts of ports: During the three-minute flight, a VoloDrone loaded with 200 kilograms of boxes on a wooden pallet took off, its 18 rotors propelling the aircraft to a maximum altitude of 22 meters before returning for a gentle landing.

Future VoloDrones could follow a similar flight path to “bring in a pallet from one side of a channel in the port to the other,” Reuter says.

The crowd of observers for the October flight illustrates the second objective of Volocopter’s demonstrations: “to really create public acceptance” by familiarizing people with the sight and sound of electric-powered aircraft passing overhead, Reuter says, because if all goes as planned, the company’s cargo drones won’t be its only product. Volocopter is targeting 2024 for its VoloCity air taxis to begin passenger transport in Paris and Singapore.

And while city planners and government agencies are conducting ongoing studies about the noise generated by the electric aircraft in development by Volocopter and its competitors, for his part, Reuter doesn’t expect complaints.

The 18 rotors on the VoloDrone and VoloCity designs generate a buzzing “no louder than a car passing by,” he says. “Even at takeoff and landing, this would blend into the existing noise landscape that you have in the bigger metro areas.”


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Earning public acceptance