The Volocopter test plane, which resembles a large eight-rotor drone, took off carrying passengers from Pontoise-Cormeilles airport outside Paris and circled a nearby area while other aircraft were in the vicinity.
The CEO of the German company Volocopter, Dirk Hoke, said that in the next 18 months it will prepare its helicopter for certification and hopes to launch short commercial flights in 2024, when Paris will host the Summer Olympics.
The company wants the two-seater aircraft to be able to fly completely autonomously, with only passengers on board, but admits there is still more to be done in terms of infrastructure, airspace integration and public acceptance.
Test pilot Paul Stone said the helicopter’s ‘digital fly-by-wire’ system and multiple rotors made it easier to fly than conventional helicopters.
“In a helicopter, when you move one control, three things happen simultaneously and that requires training in coordination,” he said.
The president of the Ile-de-France region around Paris, Valérie Pecresse, said the region provided financial support for the initiative because it wanted the first passenger flights to take off and land here.
Volocopter is competing with companies around the world, including Lilium, Joby Aviation and Airbus for the first flying taxi certified by regulators. It aims to achieve this within two years.