Thank you to webintravel.com for that nifty headline as well as gaining a recent scoop by interviewing Hon Lung Chu, Head of Volocopter’s Singapore and Southeast Asia Business Development.

Talk to the discerning doyens of the impending electric aviation revolution and Asia, in particular Singapore, is viewed as the Number 1 region for Urban Air Mobility (UAM) growth during the next 10 years.

The 2021 ‘Asian Air Passenger Urban Air Mobility In Perspective’ report states, “The Asia-Pacific region is a key market for UAM and for premium transportation modes in markets like China, India, Singapore, and South Korea that have significant concentrations of dollar millionaires and notoriously heavy road traffic.”

webintravel.com writes, “According to a recently-released report by global bank HSBC, in eight years, over 13 percent of Singapore’s adult population will be worth USD1 million or more, surpassing the proportion of millionaires in the US, China, and 12 other Asia-Pacific economies.

“By 2030, the bank predicts that only 8.8 percent of U.S. adults and 4.4 percent of Chinese adults will be millionaires. Among Asian economies, Australia will come in second to Singapore with around 12.5 percent of its adult population as millionaires by that time, and Hong Kong will come in third with 11.1 percent.”

It is of no surprise that leading eVTOL company, Volocopter, is placing an early marker on the region. With 500 staff employed currently in Bruchsal, Munich and Singapore, there is a determination to gain full and commercial certification for its three different aircraft by 2024, ready for launches at the Paris Olympic Games and Singapore, from where it intends to expand to other Asian markets.

Volocopter First Flight at Marina Bay, Singapore

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Journalist Yeo Siew Hoon asks the questions.

You’ve announced plans to launch in Singapore and the Paris Olympics by 2024. Why did you pick those two cities?

We looked at 200 cities and Paris and Singapore appeared in the top 100. Paris, because of the Olympics, a global event and Singapore, a practical entry into the APAC market. A supportive government with a forward thinking regulator is a big piece of it. We are working hand in hand with the regulators to enable the service to launch. They have to work as hard as we do.

Can you give us an update on the progress of test flights so far?

We have done more than 1,500 test flights around the world. We have a test field in the south of Germany and are running daily regular test flights on the path to certification for the aircraft. We now have 10 staff in Singapore and we plan to grow significantly in the next 12-18 months. We are slowly ramping up public awareness.

We’re expecting to get certification in 2024, that’s one of the key milestones. We are following traditional aviation rules when it comes to certification, that takes many years to finalise. The good news is, we are locked for certification with EASA (European Union). We are the first in the world for certification programme for the eVTOL.

Hon Lung Chu

What are your plans for the service in Singapore? I understand it will be more of touristic flights rather than commuting services. What’s the thinking behind this?

We deploy where it creates value. We are not here to replicate an existing service. In Singapore, the roads are seldom congested. We see a lot of tourists coming in and our goal is to take that to the next level. Our market survey in 2020 indicated that demand for tourist flights is strong in the local market and when we did a follow-up survey, it showed significant interest for a new attraction such as a tourist flight that over the Marina Bay Sands area, Gardens By The Bay.

The eVTOL is capable of flying 30 minutes but initially we want to be conservative – we will fly lower altitude – 100 to 150m – for 15 minutes. It will give better views, better noise profile and the passengers will have a much nicer experience.

How do you anticipate demand?

Well, two years ago, for the Paris flights, we pre-sold 1,000 tickets priced at 300 Euros each and they were sold within a week. We expect to launch at a similar price here, and we expect similar interest.

What’s next after touristic flights?

We will go cross-border to Johor, Malaysia and Batam and Bintan, Indonesia – places where we can add value and offer consumers a choice. Our range is 35km, so we are evaluating those routes.

How many eVTOLs do you plan to deploy in Singapore and what are your plans for the rest of Asia?

We will start with a handful for the tourist flights. We do expect demand to outstrip supply but we believe in safety first. There will be one pilot, one passenger per flight. We will move towards full autonomy within three to four years of service.

In cities with bad traffic, VTOL should be able to address those gridlock situations well?

Our belief is that the airport to city centre route is low hanging fruit. Volocopter is designed for point-to-point intra-city travel. Mega cities such as Jakarta could benefit from Volocopter – it’d be like building a new subway in the city. We have a joint venture in China, as well as in South Korea. Japan Airlines has pre-ordered 100 of our aircraft and we are working towards a launch in Japan around World Expo in Osaka in 2025.

In Dubai, Falcon Aviation Services has signed a letter of intent for up to 35 Embraer EVE eVTOL air taxis, with deliveries beginning in four years, and plans to run touristic flights too over the Atlantis. Do you forsee more competition in this sector in the years ahead?

We are happy to see more participants coming in. We started in 2011, when there wasn’t much happening. More entrants is an attestment of the seriousness of the potential. Because we have been around longer, we are clear on designing aircraft for a specific purpose, we are not designing a generic catch-all aircraft, this is one of the key differentiators for us. The market will be big enough for all players.

What are the biggest challenges of building out such a new service as this? How are you addressing infrastructure issues?

With Volocopter, infrastructure is top of mind. We published the Voloport handbook last year – our own vision with minimal footprint, environmental design, high throughput, and can be quickly deployed on land, floating platforms or rooftops – and gave it to partners interested in building Voloports with us. We are an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), we do not want to be the airport as well. We are working with airports in Paris and Rome, and in Singapore, we worked with Skyports to build the first Volotype prototype on the float, which has since been taken down, and now we are working to build a Voloport near the cruise terminal.

The 2021 Asian Air Passenger Urban Air Mobility In Perspective report notes, “UAM will certainly complement other mid-mile transportation systems, but will need to be well integrated with eScooter, ride hailing, taxi and other transport services to ensure seamless integration and a complete intermodal transport/mobility as a service solution for cities.” What kind of partnerships are you building on to integrate your services with the rest of mobility?

In 2019, we worked on a feasibility study with Grab to identify the path forward. We see partners like Grab, similar with Kakao in Korea, as valuable part of our ecosystem. We want it to be a seamless end-to-end experience for the customer, with our intention to enable an A to B service.

So one day, I will be able to book a Volocopter on Grab?

That’s the vision.

Given the aircraft runs on battery life, what steps are being made to ensure it meets sustainability concerns given Singapore’s Green Plan of 2030?

As a group, and speaking for myself personally, we are very passionate about making an impact. We see this as the challenge of our generation. Sustainability is built into the work we do. We have designed a swappable battery system – we are able to, within five minutes, take battery packs out of the aircraft, replace with freshly charged and thermally cooled ones, to ensure optimal performance and fast turnaround. For the used batteries, we will charge and cool them to ensure the lifetime is extended, to stretch out the use of each battery to minimise the impact.

This project definitely calls for heavy investments upfront. How are you going to make it all back?

We believe we have a sound business model. Yes, there are heavy costs upfront. For the touristic routes, we can charge more, beyond the commuting price. We see the longterm potential. Once it is proven out, we can then scale quickly and significantly – fly point to point and build out the network – and bring down the operation costs.

(News Source: https://www.webintravel.com/)

(Pics: Volocopter)