Posted November 10, 2022, 6:05 p.mUpdated November 10, 2022 at 6:06 p.m.
The horizon is clearing to see taxis flying in the skies of Paris at the 2024 Olympic Games. This Thursday, November 10, the first European vertiport, that is, the terminal between drones and helicopters, was opened in Pontoise. airfield (Val-d’Oise). This heralds a new form of carbon-free air mobility that will spread throughout the region in the coming years.
In the morning, the flying taxi (for VTOL electric vehicles with vertical take-off and landing) produced by the German company “Volocopter” made its first flight in a conventional environment. During the landing of a small plane, the device successfully took off not far from there. All but one detail must be authorized to fly over the skies of the Ile-de-France region in order to obtain the valuable European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certificate. “You will have the same safety guarantee as a commercial aircraft,” said Jean-Christophe Drai, France representative of Volocopter, which hopes to receive Sesame in early 2024.
So this opening completes a year of testing at the Cergypontain site. In particular, the measurement of the noise emitted by the machine – a key point for its social acceptability – was considered good by the project partners with an emission level of 76 decibels. “This machine makes four times less noise than a helicopter,” says Augustin de Romanet, CEO of the Aéroports de Paris (ADP) group, which has invested heavily in the development of the nascent sector. In fact, in March, RATP tested an in-flight sound impact measurement campaign with the ADP group, Volocopter, Bruitparif, DGAC (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) and ONERA.
A small building with an area of 115 m2 equipped with control service, flight indicator panel, office and catering area is ready to welcome passengers. “It was a million euro investment with all the control technology inside the building,” says Alex McCord, Vertiport Development Manager at Skyports, who designed and developed the work with the ADP group. The first 5 vertiports will be developed to connect Le Bourget and Paris-CDG airports with the quai d’Austerlitz in Paris, as well as the Issy-les-Moulineaux heliport to the Saint-Cyr l’école airfield.
An alternative to VTC
An electric car can fly up to thirty kilometers. For the experiment planned in 2024, about 10 of this “Velocity” model developed by Volocopter will provide 2-3 flights per hour. On the price side, the ambition is to match the prices of a VTC (transport vehicle with driver), for example between 60 and 80 euros to connect Pontoise to Paris. In another register, the German manufacturer plans to release a larger prototype by 2026. “The Voloregion model will be able to transport 5 people over a distance of 100-150 km,” says Jean-Christophe Drai.
The Pontoise vertiport will continue to host the tests of the other manufacturers in the race if the taxis are not scheduled to be launched once they are on the market. Indeed, with the introduction of Brazil Eve Air Mobility, a subsidiary of Embraer, 7 manufacturers such as Volocopter, Airbus, Ascendance Flight Technologies, Lilium, Joby Aviation and Vertical Aerospace have started production.
Discussions with AP-HP
If the ambition is to create some kind of airborne VTC service that is accessible to all by 2030, VTOLs could be called upon to perform many other missions. Use for medical purposes is the most advanced today. Indeed, from 2024, discussions have been initiated with AP-HP to encourage the transport of biological material such as organs, minor injuries or specialized doctors from the Burget health airport.
Finally, other uses of the logistics or control type are considered. Thus, Augustin de Romanet suggested that Armies equip themselves with such devices, for example, to monitor military bases.