VoloCity Became the First Electric Air Taxi to Fly in Saudi Arabia

The VoloCity took off at the NEOM experience center 7 photos
Photo: Volocopter
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Pair a futuristic smart city powered by clean energy with a new type of aircraft for zero-emission air mobility, and you have a Sci-Fi movie scene come true. In an era of ultimate globalism, it's unsurprising that a German-made aircraft became the first eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) to complete flight tests in Saudi Arabia in preparation for future commercial service in NEOM.
In 2021, HRH Prince Mohamed Bin Salman officially announced the NEOM project. This unprecedented city-state would cover 10,000 square miles (25,900 square km) in Saudi Arabia's Tabuk province.

With an estimated cost of more than $500 billion, this ambitious urban project is set to become a huge industrial and technology hub powered exclusively by sustainable, renewable sources. The Line, a community cluster within NEOM based on a futuristic three-layer structure, will ban all cars and have no streets, replacing them with underground ultra-high-speed trains, similar to the infamous hyperloop concepts.

NEOM will integrate a multi-modal mobility system, combining autonomous shuttles, electric boats, and delivery drones, all powered entirely by clean energy from solar and wind sources. The idea of a zero-emission, all-electric aircraft fits perfectly.

NEOM project representatives announced the joint venture with Volocopter at the end of 2021. The German eVTOL manufacturer was selected to provide its VoloCity air taxis and VoloDrone cargo aircraft and to help build an AAM (Advanced Air Mobility) ecosystem.

This week, the two partners reached a milestone with the first official eVTOL flight in Saudi Arabia. Volocopter became the first in the industry to obtain a special flight authorization and to conduct pioneering test flights in this country. It wasn't a single flight but a complex flight test campaign that unfolded over the course of one week.

The VoloCity's performance is already confirmed, but NEOM required specific tests. The main issue here is a challenging climate, in addition to other environmental characteristics. Plus, the campaign focused on the air taxi's smooth integration within the local UTM (unmanned aircraft traffic management) system.

Now, it's only a matter of time until Volocopter's air taxis and drones will start flying above the futuristic city-state on a regular basis. The German company is set to kick off serial production at its facility in Bruchsal, with an initial capacity of 50 units per year. Prior to that, the VoloCity is expected to get the official green light for commercial service next year.

In the meantime, NEOM is also building its own airline, which will operate retrofitted airplanes at first (running on sustainable fuel) and later switch to zero-emission alternatives. The NEOM-operated airliners promise a luxurious and even futuristic flight experience, with large multi-media screens for every seat, on-demand dining (based on locally-sourced ingredients), and 6G Wi-Fi connectivity.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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