E-volo, the German company that has been developing a two-seat VTOL for several years, has signed an agreement with the government of Dubai to test-fly autonomous air taxis in the emirate by the end of this year, the company announced on Monday at the Paris Air Show. Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said in a news release it expects the trials to continue for about five years, during which all operational aspects will be assessed, including security, safety and rulemaking. “The official operation hinges on the readiness of companies and the availability of legislations governing this type of autonomous aerial vehicle,” the RTA said. Alexander Zosel, co-founder and CEO of E-volo, said, “We are very grateful and proud that the RTA has selected us as their partner after rigorous testing.”
The Volocopter, which is now in its second iteration, has 18 rotors, fully redundant all-electric power trains and an autonomous control system. The technology now will be tested under Dubai’s extreme climatic conditions. “We see Dubai as the pioneer for a huge evolving market,” said Zosel, who added that he is convinced many other metropolitan areas will follow. “We now have a fantastic opportunity to work with the RTA on the development and testing of the entire future ecosystem for safe autonomous air transport, using Dubai as a first showcase project,” Zosel added. E-volo also said the company name will now be Volocopter.
Also at Paris, Workhorse Group, a U.S. company, unveiled a prototype of its own personal hybrid helicopter/VTOL concept aircraft, the SureFly. The SureFly design features four propeller arms, each with two fixed contra-rotating propellers; a backup battery to drive the electric motors in the event of engine failure; and a ballistic parachute. It’s driven by a 200-HP Honda gas combustion engine that generates electricity and a parallel battery pack as a redundant backup power source. SureFly is designed to be easy to pilot, the company said, and is expected to be capable of carrying pilot and passenger or cargo up to 70 miles. Early models will be pilot-operated, but the company said its goal is to introduce autonomous models. Flight testing is expected by the end of the year.