SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - German aviation start-up Volocopter on Wednesday (Dec 9) announced its commitment to launch air taxi services in Singapore, following two years of "close collaboration" with the city.
Volocopter's emission-free aircraft takes off and lands vertically. Each autonomous electric drone can carry up to two passengers.
In partnership with the Economic Development Board of Singapore (EDB) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), the start-up plans to launch air taxi services in the Republic within the next three years.
In preparation for this, it has created Volocopter Asia Holding and hired Hon Lung Chu as its head of Asia-Pacific based in Singapore.
Volocopter said it will build a team of 50 pilots, engineers, operation specialists and business managers in the next three years leading up to the launch of its commercial operations.
The company also expects to hire more than 200 full-time employees in Singapore to manage a network of routes by 2026.
Its air taxi's first route in the city-state will likely be a touristic route over the southern waters, offering views of the Marina Bay skyline. This could provide Singapore's tourism industry with a new attraction, Volocopter said. Follow-on connections may include cross-border flights to enhance regional connectivity, it added.
Tan Kong Hwee, EDB's executive vice-president, noted that urban air mobility is an emerging area within the broader mobility sector, which has been identified as a growth industry for Singapore.
He added that the city-state is an important regional test bed for autonomous cars, electric vehicles and urban air mobility, and that EDB is glad Volocopter has chosen to anchor its commercial and research and development activities here.
Volocopter's involvement in this new area of urban air mobility gives CAAS the opportunity to co-create regulations and technologies with the industry, said Tan Kah Han, the national aviation authority's senior director, unmanned systems group. This will also facilitate innovation to enable a future mode of transportation for Singapore, Mr Tan noted.
Volocopter's latest announcement comes after it carried out a successful test flight in Singapore in October last year.
The start-up has also partnered ride-hailing firm Grab in February this year, to conduct a joint feasibility study on the prospect of offering airborne rides in South-east Asia. The two will look into the most suitable cities and routes to deploy air taxis, evaluate the best-use cases and explore the possiblity of joint flight tests.