Automobile manufacturer Daimler and other investors have provided funding of $30 million to German startup Volocopter, which has been working on vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) systems that could make owning a personal aircraft as easy as owning a car.
Personal flying machines have long been one of mankind's dreams, with depictions of life in the future showing that everyone owns a jetpack for short journeys. While that hasn't quite happened, Volocopter, founded in 2012 and based in Stuttgart, has been developing a personal VTOL aircraft that will "democratize flying."
The aircraft, the Volocopter 2X, is a fully electric multicopter, meaning it has more than two rotors. It can be flown only by someone with a sport pilot license during its testing phase and has 18 rotors, with nine batteries powering two rotors each. Like many robotic products, it uses a brushless motor which reduces friction, and is "incredibly quiet" at only 65dB. For comparison, 60dB is comparable to human conversation, while 70dB is equivalent to a vacuum cleaner. The Volocopter has space for two "tall" people to sit inside, with leather seats, a display to show location and other relevant information, and a joystick for controlling the aircraft.
Volocopter's investors include Berlin-based technology investor Lukasz Gadowski and Daimler, who together are providing total funding of $30 million. That will be a welcome injection for Volocopter, which introduced the 2X in 2016 and plans to test the autonomous version in Dubai in the fourth quarter of this year.
It remains to be seen whether Volocopter can make small VTOL aircraft as practical and ubiquitous as car ownership, but this $30 million will certainly go some way toward achieving that goal.