Chinese automotive company Geely led a Series C financing round of $55 million into German flying taxi company Volocopter. Volocopter has been developing a drone-like air taxi as an innovative solution to urban transportation. Volocopter’s CFO, Rene Griemens has confirmed that the investment will give Geely roughly a 10% stake in the company, implying an investment of around $25 million and a total valuation of $250 million.
Volocopter’s two passenger model, dubbed the VoloCity, is currently under development, and Griemens in an interview said that the company is working to refine the R&D in key areas to meet various safety and regulatory policies. Volocopter is looking to pioneer the concept of “Urban Air Mobility” and their joint venture with Geely gives them a foothold in China. However, the company is targeting initial testing in cities including Singapore and Dubai. The air taxi are not fully autonomous and require a driver to operate the machine, however, the flight controls are much simpler than most conventional air transportation.
Just recently, Volocopter successfully completed a test flight at Helsinki’s International Airport. Jan-Hendrik Boelen, Volocopter’s CTO, said, “We are very proud to have shown for the first time the operation of an air taxi at an international airport. This has been part of a European funded technology development project that aims to integrate drones, air taxis, and legacy aircraft into the same airspace.”
Volocopter is mainly a technology and hardware manufacturer, who would own the air taxis but leave the day to day operations and logistics to a third party. Li Shufu, Geely’s chairman, said in a statement, “Geely is transitioning from being an automotive manufacturer to a mobility technology group, investing in and developing a wide range of next-generation technologies. Our joint venture with Volocopter underlines our confidence in Volocopter air taxis as the next ambitious step in our wider expansion in both electrification and new mobility services.”
While Geely still has significant investment in traditional transportation methods, this partnership with Volocopter provides them an entrance into the frontiers of urban mobility technology. However, this is not Geely’s first foray into flying vehicles, as the company in 2017 completed the acquisition of Terrafugia, a US-based company specializing in the development of flying cars.