Tribune – Hard times for Vtols (Jean-Louis Baroux)

After a somewhat euphoric period, it was at the end of 2023, it seems that the wind has died down a bit regarding the use of VTOLS (Vertical Take Off and Landing), in other words electric powered flying taxis. It was planned, nothing more and nothing less, to open the first regular service on the occasion of the Paris Olympics between Charles de Gaulle Airport and a barge moored on the Seine in the heart of Paris. The tests were carried out at Pontoise airport and appeared to be conclusive. All that was left was to get permission

This is where the difficulties begin to pile up. The manufacturer chose: the German Volocopter had to certify its device called Velocity, which can carry up to 4 passengers. Volocopter is definitely not a small company, with more than 600 employees and already more than 10 years of existence, the Bavarian company managed to mobilize almost 800 million dollars to ensure its development. But as always, some funds are still missing before it reaches profitability, and that necessarily means bringing Volocity to market. To date, however, the necessary European certification has still not been granted, and the request for loans guaranteed by the German Landers: Baden-W├╝rttemberg in 2023 and recently Bavaria in the amount of 100 million euros has been rejected.

The visibility that the Olympiad would give the Valocapter

In fact, Volocopter has bet everything on its selection for the Olympics, which would give it visibility and prestige, able to attract the necessary additional donors before going into industrial production. Before reaching this stage, however, the difficulties are considerable. It is nothing more and nothing less than inventing the management of urban airspace so that it can be used by machines with new propulsion, electricity and fully automated piloting. This is the initial reluctance, especially since airspace managers are not showing any great effort to complete the procedures. The 2024 Olympics could have provided the boost it needed, but it won’t.

For such a project to succeed, remember that it consists of using the city’s airspace to fly a number of 2-4 seater electric-powered, auto-piloted aircraft, much greater investment will be required than those supporting the very laudable efforts of the pioneers, whether European or American. In fact, only major helicopter manufacturers can bring them. However, they are not in a hurry, because they will earn enough money with their classic production. Then why would they threaten their current economy?

And then, even if this new mobility is attractive on paper, it is not certain that it will quickly find its market. Environmental constraints will be strong and as stated in the article Aerobuzz Today, from whom I borrow this theme of reflection, the benefits are not so obvious compared to current road transport. Let’s not forget that taxis will be largely electric from next decade and will use much less electricity to transport the same number of people with much better pick-up and drop-off equipment than VTOLS.

VTOL to open small cities

Large European and Asian cities are basically not the most suitable for this type of transport, which is not the case in America. And then why not massively use VTOL to open up small towns and hard-to-reach places, which would slow down the onslaught of population into very large cities and thus preserve a more harmonious population distribution. The helicopter is currently the only means of transport that is fast enough and can reach even the most inaccessible places. However, it is the target of environmentalists who see it not only as visual, auditory and CO┬▓ producing pollution, but also as a means of transport reserved for the rich, which is highly condemned without seeing the whole point of the regime. transport.

In the future, VTOLS will be able to provide the same services as helicopters at a much lower cost and much better acceptance by the population. So why not task current helicopter operators with the task of transforming their production tools by gradually using VTOL to replace their existing machines?

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