France opened a hub for testing electric air taxis as it seeks to introduce the world’s first service with the new category of aircraft in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
Aeroports de Paris, which runs the French capital’s major airports, will operate the facility alongside UK-based Skyports Ltd., a leading developer of so-called vertiports, as flying-taxi bases have been termed.
The hub at Pontoise Cormeilles aerodrome, unveiled Thursday, combines a passenger terminal, take-off and landing area, mission control zone and hangar, all as close as possible to the configuration envisaged for 2024.
Volocopter GmbH, a German developer of electric vertical take-off and landing craft or eVTOLs, as flying taxis are known, carried out a flight integrated with conventional air traffic as part of the launch, and said the push to be ready for the Olympics is driving its technology forward.
“I am fully convinced we can make it,” Chief Executive Officer Dirk Hoke said in an interview at the launch. “All our team gets up in the morning just for this goal. It’s the most challenging road map you can imagine.”
The most critical milestone will be to get regulatory authorization by the second quarter of 2024, right before the games start, Hoke said.
Two flying taxi routes are planned for the games, one from Charles de Gaulle and Le Bourget airports to central Paris, where a vertiport will be positioned on a barge on the Seine river, the other from the Saint-Cyr aerodrome near Versailles into the city.
The project is also backed by RATP Group, which provides public transport in the Paris area, and the DGAC aviation regulator, as well as the transport ministry and Ile-de-France region.
ADP Chief Executive Officer Augustin de Romanet said the opening of the test site marks “a new decisive step in the development of electric air mobility,” and that work will include the development of multiple use cases for the hub, including health and logistics applications.
Valérie Pécresse, president of the Paris Region, said in a statement she wants the city to be known for the first passenger eVTOL flight, adding that the Olympics are “an incredible opportunity to showcase and launch this project.”
Volocopter plans to offer its VoloCity model for the games for flights spanning around half an hour. The company aims to commence services in Rome by the end of 2024, with Singapore, Miami, and Los Angeles to follow.
Elsewhere in the Paris region, there’s interest in deploying flying taxis in the spa town of Enghien-les-Bains, located on a lake and boasting luxury hotels and the only casino in the region.
Flying taxis are emerging as a new transport market, with developers raising hundreds of millions of dollars.
The French project adds to a growing list of planned bases around the world including those being promoted by Skyports rival Urban-Air Port, which showcased a demonstration vertiport in Coventry, England, last spring.
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