PHOTOS: I saw a prototype of Singapore’s first air taxi planned for 2024 – and it looks like something straight out of the future

The air taxi service is meant to complement Singapore’s already efficient transport system by tackling routes that traditionally face topographical challenges, VoloPort said.
Business Insider / Lamont Mark Smith

Rushing to get home but don’t want to get caught in the peak hour jam? You may soon be able to take an air taxi across the island.

Expected to begin operations by 2024, air taxi firm VoloPort unveiled its first public prototype of its Singapore vertiport – a landing port for aircraft which land or take off vertically – at the Marina Bay floating platform on Monday (Oct 21) as part of the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress.

First announced earlier this year, the Marina Bay air taxi vertiport is the first that has come out of a collaboration between German aircraft manufacturer Volocopter and UK-based vertiport operator Skyports.

The air taxi service – operated on the Volocopter 2X – is meant to complement Singapore’s already efficient transport system by tackling routes that traditionally face topographical challenges, VoloPort said.

Damian Kysely, infrastructure manager at Skyports, told Business Insider in an interview that the service offers an alternative option when “travel time between point A to B is fairly long, especially during peak hours”.

Additionally, he added that air taxis can connect nearby destinations like Johor Bahru and Batam, where the only modes of transport from Singapore currently are by causeway or sea.

Volocopter estimates that the routes to Johor Bahru and Batam would only take 18 minutes and 20 minutes respectively, much faster than the current travel times of around one hour by car to Johor and 45 mins by ferry to Batam.

Apart from the Marina Bay vertiport, VoloPort is currently looking into nodes at areas such as Jurong East, Sentosa, Changi Airport, Seletar Airport and Tampines.

Helena Treeck, senior public relations manager at Volocopter, told Business Insider that the service aims to have fares “similar to premium taxis” in the long run.

The service could cost users “a few hundred” dollars when it first launches, but will “definitely be cheaper than traditional helicopter flights”, Treeck said.

Business Insider saw the world’s first VoloPort air taxi and vertiport up close at Marina Bay.

Here’s what it was like:


The vertiport prototype at the floating platform pans 2,500 square feet.

Open to congress guests, it showcases planned customer services such as pre-flight checks, passenger lounges and boarding procedures.

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Business Insider / Lamont Mark Smith

According to the two companies, a single landing pad can accommodate 10 to 15 flights per hour, up to 150 flights a day and around 1,000 flights each week.

Skyports – which provides the infrastructure for the VoloPort – said that the modular design of the take-off and landing pad can accommodate a wide range of air taxis, which means aircraft other than the Volocopter will also be able to use the pad.

Its modular design can be easily adapted to fit rooftops, train stations, parking lots and other metropolitan locations, the company added.

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The prototype of VoloPort’s take-off and landing pad is located at the back of the platform, against the backdrop of Singapore’s central business district.
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Business Insider / Lamont Mark Smith

Its check-in counter features a biometric identification system, which will use data collected from the VoloPort booking app to identify passengers.

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Factors that make Singapore an ideal air taxi host include the small size of the country, which is perfect for the current range of air taxis, and Singaporeans’ openness towards trying new technologies, Kysely said.
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Business Insider / Lamont Mark Smith

All flights will be operated on the Volocopter 2x, which is an electric Verticle Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

According to Volocopter, the aircraft meets the standards of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) international certification – which requires air taxis to be as safe as airliners.

Though they look like helicopters, the vehicles are in fact built upon drone technology, the company said.

Test flights are scheduled to take place on Tuesday (Oct 22), and are supported by the Ministry of Transport (MOT), Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), and the Economic Development Board (EDB).

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Volocopter had previously collaborated with the Roads and Transport Authority of Dubai to conduct a public unmanned test flight in Dubai in September 2017.
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Business Insider / Lamont Mark Smith

The two-seater will be manned by a certified air pilot when it first begins operations, but will eventually transition towards being driver-less.

The futuristic-looking aircraft specifically designed for flights within the confines of inner cities, and is able to sustain stable flight even in micro-turbulence around skyscrapers, the German manufacturer said.

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It is also touted to be ‘extremely quiet’, says Volocopter.
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Business Insider / Lamont Mark Smith

Here’s a short clip of a demo video and the static 2X that was displayed.

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Business Insider / Lamont Mark Smith

As the eVTOL operates on electricity, there’s a charging station located in the vertiport to refuel its batteries.

Each full charge is estimated to last 35 kilometres, and approximately 30 minutes of flight time, Volocopter said.

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The battery life will easily accommodate all of the air taxi’s routes, as its longest flight is expected to last about 20 minutes.
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Business Insider / Lamont Mark Smith

The battery sits at the back of the volocopter.

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Business Insider / Lamont Mark Smith

To ensure maximum safety, the air taxi will use air traffic maps provided by Unifly that provides real-time air traffic data.

Kysely said that Singapore is a great starting point for air taxis as the Republic is like the “focal point of Asia”.

Singapore will provide the first major step to the commercialisation of air taxis. Other cities in the region – Jakarta, Manila or Bangkok –  where there are traffic congestion issues could be next on the list, Kysely added.

According to him, existing transport systems will be able to cope with the amount of air traffic for the next five to ten years. However, new air traffic management systems must be integrated gradually in the next “five to fifteen years”, he added.

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A projected Changi Airport to Marina Bay route.
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Business Insider / Lamont Mark Smith

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