SINGAPORE - Air taxi pioneers Volocopter and Skyports are set to co-launch commercial air taxi services in Singapore in just two years' time, beginning with frequent flights in Marina Bay and Sentosa.
This could then expand to include cross-border air taxi trips to Indonesia and Malaysia, possibly flying directly from terminals in areas like Seletar and Changi to cities including Melaka, Batam and Bintan.
An air taxi flight from Changi Airport to Batam would take less than 20 minutes, German aviation company Volocopter said in a roadmap for Singapore that it released on Monday (Feb 14).
A business traveller going to Ibrahim International Business District in Johor Baru could reach his destination in just 30 minutes, compared with three hours by car, the company said.
At the Singapore Airshow on Tuesday (Feb 15), the air taxi companies said the technology is now close to commercial roll-out.
Their blueprints are the first concrete details that have emerged from the urban air mobility industry here since their joint 2019 trial, when an electric air taxi took off successfully for a three-minute flight along the Marina Bay waterfront.
Separately, the Economic Development Board (EDB) and developer JTC Corporation identified Seletar Aerospace Park as a possible "advanced air mobility" hub, signing a memorandum of understanding with each company on Tuesday.
One with Skyports pledges to explore building air taxi infrastructure like terminals and facilities for pilot training in Seletar. Another agreement with Volocopter seeks to establish a manufacturing and maintenance, repair and overhaul centre for air taxis in the same area.
The four signatories said in a joint statement: "With the advanced air mobility industry set to take off amid accelerating technological breakthroughs, Singapore is pushing ahead to grow the industry locally... with a view to creating a network of air taxi ports and an initial commercial air taxi service in the city state by 2024."
EDB executive vice-president Tan Kong Hwee said: "Advanced air mobility is an emerging area that presents strong growth opportunities for Singapore. EDB is committed to ensuring that Singapore is well-positioned to capture these opportunities... to create good business and job opportunities for Singapore and Singaporeans."
Volocopter's air taxis look like small helicopters with multiple mini rotor blades. These electric craft have been touted as a safer, quieter, more convenient and more environmentally friendly way to travel.
They will take off from and land on vertiports - named for the way the vehicles take off and land vertically. Resembling small private airports about 20-25m long, these can be replicated on the rooftop of buildings, which would allow for more direct transport.
Mr Christian Bauer, Volocopter's chief commercial officer, said the first fleet of air taxis here should consist of 10 to 20 air taxis, and that the service will be affordable to the general public.
The firm wants Singapore and Paris to be the first cities its commercial air taxis are flown in, and is in the process of obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and European authorities.
Its urban air taxi, VoloCity, has a range of 35km and a speed of 90kmh, while its four-seater model, VoloConnect, can travel at 180kmh over 100km.
A slew of tests, flight trials and evaluations are being conducted to ensure they are as safe as commercial aircraft, said Mr Bauer.
"We believe that Singapore will be a flagship nation for this type of technology and be suitable for us to then scale it to other nations and cities across South-East Asia," he said. "This memorandum of understanding signifies a concrete step towards our commercial roll-out in Singapore."
Volocopter plans to hire up to 500 direct employees here by 2030, and induce the creation of another 800 jobs.
Mr Tay Yun Yuan, head of Asia-Pacific at British vertiport developer Skyports, said air taxis are the "next frontier for aviation" and can plug the gaps in the current transport system.
They will more likely complement the existing system of trains, buses and taxis than replace them, and should instead first be used for last-mile connections or for regional connectivity on routes that are too short for current commercial flights, he said.
He said of air taxi use: "Our land transportation is efficient and we seldom get traffic jams. We think there could be a chance to use air taxi services to connect to the islands in the south and to our neighbours in the north, and to potentially enhance our status as an aviation hub today."