Germany’s Volocopter and Saudi Arabia’s NEOM have also set up a joint venture for the project. For some time now, Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of the world’s megaprojects: the Middle East country has built the world’s tallest clock tower – the world’s third tallest – the Abraj al-Bayt in Mecca, and is also building the monumental Jeddah Tower, which will be the world’s tallest building when completed, at over a kilometre tall. One of the latest mega projects, also ambitious, is Neom, a new mega-city of 26,500 square kilometres on the Red Sea coast in north-western Saudi Arabia, announced in 2017, which will cost around $500 billion.
The futuristic megacity already bears the hallmarks of the Saudi leadership’s new green vision, Vision 2030, which would see “the new city of the future” powered by 100% renewable energy and the banishment of not only cars but also streets, with underground vehicles and autonomous air taxis taking over the role of transport. A concrete agreement has already been reached: the designers of the city of the future would entrust the lion’s share of the task to the German Volocopter self-driving air taxis. To facilitate this, the parties have also set up a joint venture.
“The partnership agreement with Neom and the new joint venture will be a very exciting journey. It is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the design and operation of a completely new UAM ecosystem from the ground up, without the constraints of legacy infrastructure or regulation,” summarised Christian Bauer, Chief Commercial Officer of Volocopter.
Based on a joint agreement between Volocopter and NEOM, the deployment of the vertical transport system will start from 2022. To this end, the Saudi administration has initially ordered a total of 15 eVTOLs, i.e. vertical take-off electric vehicles, from the German manufacturer. Of these, 10 will be the VoloCity model for passenger transport, while the other 5, the VoloDrone, will be used for transport logistics. The first commercial flights are scheduled to start within the next 2-3 years.
The Saudi super-project also wants to introduce some amazing innovations in the new smart city: in addition to the prominent use of artificial intelligence, the plans include weather management, holographic teachers, even the installation of luminous sand, and night-time street lighting partly by special satellites. Compared with the above, the flying taxi seems a rather mundane innovation.
Volocopter air taxis are gaining in popularity around the world: in Japan, the technology will be tested with civilian passengers from 2023, and Volocopters are also expected to be used in Los Angeles and at the 2024 Paris Olympics.