German firm Volocopter is developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, which it envisions using as air taxis, making short- to medium-range flights. The company recently tested a prototype aircraft at Tampa International Airport, and media and local pols were on hand for the event.
The flight test campaign, which used a crewed Volocopter 2X, consisted of aircraft downwash and outwash testing with the FAA and performance testing in local environmental conditions.
The company expects to receive final certification of its commercial eVTOL aircraft, the VoloCity, from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2024. The company began the validation process with the FAA in 2020, and its application is currently pending approval.
Volocopter recently announced a partnership with the Bristow Group to begin operations of eVTOLs in the near future. Florida is one of the targeted areas of operation.
The company will find a willing partner in Tampa. The airport’s newly drafted 20-year master plan calls for the development of vertiports, or helipads, for future air taxis, and identified two preferred vertiport sites near the airport. “This is going to be a reality for us really soon,” said Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano, adding that he hopes flights could begin as early as 2025 or 2026.
“Over 100 years ago, we had the first commercial flight in the world from St Pete to Tampa, flown by Tony Jannus—what better way to demonstrate innovation with this new aircraft,” said Lopano. “Tampa International Airport has always embraced innovation and futuristic planning.”
The rapidly-growing Tampa Bay area is famously short on public transport options—one glaring deficiency is the lack of connections between Tampa International and nearby St Petersburg.
“Economic mobility depends on transportation—that means having multimodal options for our residents to connect to business and leisure opportunities through Tampa Bay,” St Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said at the event.
Local transit leaders have predicted that air taxis could travel from TPA to St Pete’s Albert Whitted Airport in eight minutes.
“Flying at a large, active airport always presents a multitude of challenges, but we proved that our aircraft is safe, quiet, and efficiently useful in a city like Tampa,” said Volocopter CEO Dirk Hoke. “Volocopter sees this as a starting point of the entry into service in the US, and we will come back to show our continued progress.”