NEOM, a smart and sustainable regional development in northwest Saudi Arabia, and Volocopter have successfully completed of a series of air taxi test flights. This marks the first time an eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft has received a special flight authorization and performed test flights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The flight test campaign lasted over a week and built on 18 months of collaboration between NEOM, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), and Volocopter, with the aim of implementing and scaling an electric Urban Air Mobility (UAM) ecosystem and testbed in NEOM. The parties worked closely to ensure full regulatory compliance and safety ahead of the test campaign. Groupe ADP and Volocopter have collaborated to bring UAM to Paris, conducting flight tests with new electric air taxis, or eVTOLs at the Pontoise testbed, and bringing all regulators and stakeholders together since 2020.
His Excellency, Abdulaziz A. Al-Duailej, President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, said: “This safe and successful test flight represents an important milestone of the Saudi aviation sector and another steady step towards achieving the aviation sector’s strategy, through innovation and employing emerging technologies to create new industries that contribute to the output GDP and create more jobs. It also confirms GACA’s commitment to enabling the safe integration of innovative air transport patterns that improve the mobility experience of individuals in urban areas and the quality of life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The test campaign focused on the flight performance of the Volocopter aircraft in local climate and environmental conditions, as well as testing its integration into the local unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) system.
Volocopter eVTOLs will be key to NEOM’s smart and sustainable multimodal mobility system, which will be powered by 100% renewable energy generated by solar and wind energy sources. They will be used in a variety of roles, including as air taxis and emergency response vehicles, and are quieter, more easily adaptable, and cheaper to operate than the helicopters often employed today, said Volocopter. They have a smaller on-ground infrastructure footprint, fewer operating restrictions, and employ smart and autonomous capabilities that ensure both safety and sustained relevance in future contexts.
The test flight announcement builds on NEOM’s EUR 175 million investment and joint venture with Volocopter, which was founded in 2021.
Volocopter expects to obtain type certification for its VoloCity air taxi in 2024, enabling future commercial operations. Volocopter recently announced the commencement of VoloCity serial production at its facilities in Bruchsal, Germany, with a capacity to deliver more than 50 aircraft a year.