A two-seat autonomous aircraft with 16 electric rotors flew for the first time in May, and carried passengers on board for several flights in early September, the company recently announced. The “PassengerDrone” aircraft, built in Switzerland, looks similar to a Volocopter, but with its rotors placed along two straight booms instead of Volocopter’s circular rotor array. The cockpit features just a joystick and a touch-screen graphic display with custom avionics, and can be flown either remotely or by a pilot on board. The company says the vehicle “has the potential to change the traditional means of commuter transportation.” It flies at about 40 to 45 knots, the company said, and features a “quadruple redundant stability system.”
The company said its mission is “to make self-flying manned drones available to everyone, at any time, from anywhere, and turn this new and exciting aircraft into a mainstream way of transportation.” In an email sent to AVweb, a company spokesman said the aircraft will sell for $200,000 or less. He added that the company will continue with flight testing and certification efforts. According to Engadget, the company plans to build five more prototypes for a test program and start commercial production next year. “On-demand aviation and manned drones have the potential to radically transform how we get from place to place, offering lower cost and improved flexibility,” the company said.
Volocopter, based in Germany, recently demonstrated their autonomous aircraft for officials in Dubai who are planning to develop a municipal taxi system using the vehicles. The PassengerDrone spokesman said they haven’t yet shown their aircraft publicly but hope to introduce it soon in Germany, Dubai and perhaps the U.S. They plan to add a ballistic parachute, according to news reports.