German electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) startup Volocopter conducted its first crewed public test flight in Italy Thursday morning. The flight launched from a vertiport built at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, Italy’s first advanced air mobility (AAM) testing vertiport, during a two-day event meant to demonstrate what a service between the airport and the city of Rome would look like.
The Aeroporti di Roma is working toward launching commercial operations between the airport and Rome by 2024, so the reveal of the vertiport as a functional station for eVTOL takeoff and landing is a milestone in Italy’s AAM industry.
The five-minute test flight was less about taking on passengers (which it didn’t) and more about showing off the two-seater VoloCity air taxi to relevant stakeholders. As onlookers looked on, the test pilot flew Volocopter’s eVTOL twice along a figure 8 path at a speed of around 25 miles per hour and a height of around 131 feet. The test was conducted with the blessings of Italian authorities, Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile (the civil aviation authority) and Ente Nazionale Assistenza al Volo (air traffic control), according to Volocopter.
Volocopter’s test flight also marks the first time Rome’s vertiport was used. The vertiport is designed to host testing for both flight and ground operations, like battery charging, according to Volocopter. The electric system there also allows various types of testing for different eVTOL charging technologies, like battery swapping or fast charging.
The vertiport infrastructure itself, which takes up about 1,800 square feet, includes: “a final approach and takeoff area (FATO) for landing and takeoff operations; a parking area; a covered hangar measuring 20 x 20 x 6 meters; various rooms, including an office, a warehouse, and an area for battery charging,” according to a statement from Volocopter.
Italy’s aim for its first vertiport is to set an example for designing and building international vertiports. During the vertiport demo, Volocopter also displayed its branded VoloIQ digital platform, which the startup says supports everything from booking to managing flight operations, and will help support the scaling up of AAM in cities around the world.
In May, Volocopter’s four-seater drone taxi, the VoloConnect, also completed its first test flight. Earlier this year, the startup raised $170 million at a $1.87 billion valuation.