(Image from Volocopter)

Singapore might see its first air taxi by 2021, courtesy of German company Volocopter

German company Volocopter’s spokesperson, Ms Helena Treeck, told TODAY (16 October) that the firm is in “introductory talks” with the Singapore government to bring its eponymous air taxis to Singapore, hopefully by 2021.

In the past year, the German firm has been communicating with the Economic Development Board, Transport Minister and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to study the feasibility of bringing in this new public transport system, though Ms Treeck emphasised that nothing has been finalised as yet.

“We hope to have our first commercial routes open in the next two to five years. Singapore is one of the potential contenders to be among the first routes, but from Volocopter’s side, we cannot say yet when the first route will actually be open,” said Ms Treeck.

At the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress, Volocopter showcase a version of the air taxi, the Volocopter 2X, which will fly for three minutes at Marina Bay.

The firm, together with British partner Skyports, will also showcase its take-off and landing platforms called VoloPort at the Marina Bay Floating Platform. The VoloPort looks like a helipad with a passenger terminal attached to it to cater to the expected high volume of passengers.

The Volocopter is essentially an 18-rotor electronic drone, which is much quieter than a standard helicopter. The Volocopter 2X can either be piloted with a joystick or be flown remotely from the ground. In terms of speed, the Volocopter can travel at 110km per hour carrying 200kg, equivalent to two passengers and their luggage.

A safety feature built into the Volocopter prevents it from taking off if it’s too heavy, making it safer than helicopters flown by pilots who can ignore safety regulations thereby increasing the risk of accidents.

Some of the limitations of the Volocopter is about where it can fly or land. For example, it cannot fly in areas with tall buildings or trees, and if the air taxi was to land on a building, the structure has to be able to support its weight.

When asked about the firm’s decision of Singapore as the potential location for Singapore’s commercial debut – Dubai is another city they’re looking at – Ms Treeck cited the country’s “great innovation culture”.

Pointing to the autonomous skytrain at Changi Airport, Ms Treeck said Singapore is “forward-thinking” in terms of new technology.”

“It’s about having a fertile environment where you know authorities in the country and potential customers are open to trying new things,” she said.

At the same conference, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan had said that Singapore is in no rush to be “ahead of the curve” in adopting new technologies, especially for essential sectors like public transport.

The minister said, “We take our time to understand, to clearly define the public transport problem we are trying to address before we try to assess the options… This preparatory work allows us to be able to choose wisely.”

He also noted that the government takes a “technology-neutral stance”, explaining that they will explore “a range of technology platforms before shortlisting a few promising solutions, based on hard-headed calculations.”

While he did talk about the collaboration between the government and French company Bollore to launch 1,000 shared electric cars in Singapore along with 2,000 charging points, he also cautioned that Singapore is in no hurry to be the first to adopt autonomous or electric vehicles.