Volocopter still perfecting the VoloDrone
Munich, GERMANY – It has been a bit since we last mentioned the VoloDrone, Volocopter’s cargo drone which was supposed to be a game changer in various industries, but chiefly in logistics and agriculture.
Launched at an agriculture exhibition in Hannover in 2019, the VoloDrone’s impact on aerial crop spraying was going to be huge, with its payload capacity of 200 kilogrammes and wide spray bar (the agriculture part of the drone was designed in partnership with agriculture mechanisation conglomerate, John Deere).
Two years on, and the hype on the VoloDrone seemed to have cooled somewhat; maybe because the company still have a year or two until their machine is fully operational.
In the meantime, the company has announced another partnership with Near Earth Autonomy, which will see the latter testing its autonomous flight technology on Volocopter’s electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) VoloDrone.
Near Earth is an aerospace technology company whose solutions allow aircraft to autonomously take-off, fly, and land safely, with or without GPS. As they claim, their technology enables aerial mobility and inspection applications for industry players in the commercial and defence sectors, improving efficiency, performance, and safety for aircraft ranging from small drones to full-size helicopters.
“Near Earth Autonomy has years of experience, shown real results, and is going to help our VoloDrone stay ahead of the curve with autonomous capabilities,” said Christoph Hommet, VoloCopter’s Chief Engineer.
Now preparing to launch fully autonomous flights by 2024, Volocopter boasts ten years of eVTOL flight testing experience with over 1,000 flight tests to the project. Its eighteen-rotor VoloDrone was designed to safely transport cargo where conventional ground-based transport is limited (due to topography, regulation, or simply congested areas of traffic).
On the other hand, Near Earth Autonomy says it has conducted 3,500 flights lasting over 2,000 flight hours of its cutting-edge autonomy system across various aircraft types, sizes, and environments in the last eight years of aerial autonomy development.
The two companies are looking to establish standardised BVLOS capabilities for VoloDrone missions within the business-to-business transport sector, and further help the development of autonomous urban air mobility (UAM) in the process.
“These services are planned to function within a UAM ecosystem to promote greater connectivity in congested urban areas with sustainable, aerial solutions, which will comprise electric air taxis (VoloCity and VoloConnect), electric heavy-lift drones (VoloDrone), their respective infrastructures (VoloPort), and a digital connective platform (VoloIQ).”
Together, the two companies plan to demonstrate their progress in a Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) capability demonstration in Munich in next year.
“Volocopter’s track record, unique safety design, and vision have established it as the leader in the eVTOL industry,” said Sajiv Singh, Near Earth CEO. “We look forward to proving autonomy systems for their aircraft. Our shared vision of the future, and safety as an integral part of it, makes this an ideal partnership.”