Air-taxi startup Volocopter boosts funds in race to get flying


Volocopter plans to start commercial operations in Singapore by 2023, with tickets for 15-minute tourist flights already on sale for €300 (RM1,470). — AFP

Volocopter GmbH raised €200mil (RM980.04mil) in additional capital, the latest move in the increasingly competitive race to be the first electric air-taxi firm to start commercial flights.

The so-called Series D funding brings in new investors including toll road and airport operator Atlantia SpA, tire maker Continental AG, NTT, Avala Capital and funds managed by BlackRock, Volocopter said in a statement Wednesday. The fund-raising is oversubscribed, with all existing investors taking part.

Volocopter plans to start commercial operations in Singapore by 2023, with tickets for 15-minute tourist flights already on sale for €300 (RM1,470). The US Federal Aviation Administration is also considering a type-certification application, opening up the possibility of flights in cities such as Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington in the next two to three years.

The fund-raising comes amid a flurry of investment in the emerging urban air-mobility sector as would-be air-taxi firms jostle to bring rival technologies to the market.

Joby Aviation last month agreed to merge with Reinvent Technology Partners, a blank-check company formed by the founders of LinkedIn Corp and Zynga Inc, taking it public. The transaction is expected to provide about US$1.6bil (RM6.48bil).

Earlier in February, investment banker Ken Moelis struck another SPAC deal to list California-based flying-taxi developer Archer. The transaction is expected to generate about US$1.1bil (RM4.45bil) in gross proceeds and involves a US$20mil (RM81.05mil) investment from United Airlines Holdings Inc, which said it could buy 200 of the company’s craft to whisk customers to the airport.

Volocopter, which has raised €322mil (RM1.57bil) in total, said the new funding will “solidify” its position in urban air-mobility, helping its VoloCity craft through certification and accelerating the launch of commercial routes. The two-seat model, powered by multiple electric rotors, performed its first manned test in 2011 and has since completed more than 1,000 flights.

The company, whose existing backers include carmakers Daimler AG and Geely Automobile Holdings Limited, as well as logistics firm DB Schenker and the venture-capital arm of chipmaker Intel Corp, is seeking FAA approval alongside an earlier application to the European Aviation Safety Agency, as well as Singaporean authorities. – Bloomberg

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