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Grab, German Aircraft Maker to Test Air Taxi Feasibility in Southeast Asia

Air taxis are here to help you fly directly into air pollution.

Ride-hailing company Grab and German aircraft manufacture Volocopter have signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct a feasibility study on operating air taxis in Southeast Asia, The Verge reports.

The study will “look into the most suitable cities and routes to deploy air taxis in Southeast Asian cities; evaluate the best use cases for air taxis; and explore the possibility of joint flight tests, among other things.”

Traffic pattern data and customer insights collected through Grab will be used to develop air taxi services relevant to commuters, Grab’s ventures head, Chris Yeo, told the tech news site. Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter said that the partnership will help commercialize air taxis in the region and connect them with other modes of transport. 

The Volocopter’s air taxi, titled “2X,” is a two-seat egg-shaped helicopter-like vehicle with an 18-meter-wide rotor halo on top. The vehicle can be operated by a pilot or remotely on the ground. It runs on rechargeable batteries and can carry up to 160 kilograms a maximum distance of 30 kilometers at a maximum speed of about 100 kilometers per hour. The company claims that their vehicle will be quieter than a normal helicopter.

The Volocopter 2X flying taxi would also require a system of landing pads called VoloPorts, a series of circular launchpads that stick out from skyscrapers. The company says customers will be flown from one VoloPort to another when the air taxi service officially goes into commercial operation in 2022.

In October last year, Volocopter conducted a public test flight in Singapore which was nearly canceled due to rain.

“It weighs just 290 kg (639 pounds) when empty, making it particularly vulnerable to strong winds and rain. The company wouldn’t say how it will overcome the island’s biannual monsoon seasons, marked by several months of heavy thunderstorms and intense lightning,” another report from The Verge notes.

[Photo via Xe Va The Thao]