Volocopter, a German startup that wants to build electric air taxis that can fly without help from humans, has raised nearly $30 million from investors, including automaker Daimler and entrepreneur Lukasz Gadowski.
Volocopter will use the funds to continue developing its two-seater electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOL) with ultimately dominate the flying taxi market. To accelerate its plan, Volocopter will also hire more engineers with specialties in developing flight systems, software, and electric propulsion. Volocopter plans to bring the first licensed eVTOL to market in 2018.
Autonomous flying taxis might seem like a fantastical idea. However, it’s one that several companies and even governments are pursuing.
For instance, Volocopter is working with the state transport authority in Dubai to launch demonstrations of an autonomous air taxi sometime in the fourth quarter of 2017. Dubai wants to use autonomous vehicles to transport 25% of its passengers by 2030, the startup said in its announcement Tuesday.
Several companies are developing VTOLs including AeroMobil, Kitty Hawk, the company that’s financially backed by Google founder Larry Page, startups Terrafugia and Lilium, commercial aircraft maker Airbus, and even Uber.
Uber first announced its flying car plans in October when it released a white paper describing its vision of the future. The ride-hailing service’s Uber Elevate program aims to build a network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically. These vehicles would theoretically help passengers leapfrog snarling traffic and speed up transportation between suburbs and cities.