German electric takeoff and landing (eVTOL) startup Volocopter conducted its first manned public test flight in Italy on Thursday morning. The flight was launched from a vertiport built at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, Italy’s first advanced air mobility (AAM) test vertiport, during a two-day event designed to demonstrate what a service between the airport and the city of Rome would look like.
The Aeroporti di Roma is working on launch of the first commercial operations between the airport and Rome by 2024so the unveiling of the vertiport as a functional station for takeoff and landing of eVTOL is a milestone in the Italian AAM industry.
The five-minute test flight was less about taking passengers (which it wasn’t) and more about showing the 2-seater VoloCity air taxi to relevant stakeholders. While onlookers watched, the test pilot flew Volocopter’s eVTOL twice along a path of Figure 8 at a speed of about 25 miles per hour and an altitude of about 131 feet. The test was conducted with the blessing of the Italian authorities, Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile (the Civil Aviation Authority) and Ente Nazionale Assistenza al Volo (Air Traffic Control), according to Volocopter.
Volocopter’s test flight also marks the first time the Rome vertiport was used. The vertiport is designed to host tests for both flight and ground operations, such as battery charging, according to Volocopter. The electrical system there also allows for different types of tests for different eVTOL charging technologies, such as battery swapping or fast charging.
The vertiport infrastructure itself, covering approximately 1,800 square meters, includes: “a final approach and take-off area (FATO) for landing and take-off operations; a parking lot; a covered hangar measuring 20 x 20 x 6 meters; several rooms, including an office, a warehouse and a battery recharging area,” said a statement from Volocopter.
Italy’s goal with its first vertiport is to set an example for designing and building international vertiports. During the vertiport demo, Volocopter also showcased its digital VoloIQ platform, which the startup says will support everything from booking to managing flight operations, and will support the scaling of AAM in cities around the world.
In May, Volocopter’s four-person drone taxi, the VoloConnect, also completed its first test flight. Earlier this year, the startup raised $170 million at a valuation of $1.87 billion.