In the latest incremental step towards electric aviation, one of the world’s largest civil helicopter operators has teamed up with a pioneer of electric flight to develop an urban air mobility (UAM) service.
Bristow Helicopters and German electric aircraft specialist Volocopter have signed an agreement to explore and develop passenger and cargo services for electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in the US and UK.
Bristow operates a fleet of 221 aircraft in training, offshore support, search/rescue and charter. Volocopter, founded in 2011, is a leading developer of UAM vehicles, and has plans to demonstrate a UAM service at the Paris Olympics next year.
Bristow has placed a firm order for two VoloCity aircraft to be delivered after certification with an option to purchase a further 78 vehicles. According to the joint media release, Bristow and Volocopter will begin immediate cooperation to build a UAM ecosystem that includes regulatory discussions, infrastructure exploration and local partnership building.
The joint development agreement covers the exploration of commercial, operational, and eVTOL aircraft maintenance services, including adaptation of VoloIQ, Volocopter’s proprietary digital platform, to ensure Bristow’s efficient future operations.
Bristow chief transformation officer Dave Stepanek said, ‘Launching this collaborative effort with Volocopter marks a major milestone in Bristow’s effort to usher in a new era of vertical transportation solutions. Volocopter has taken a pragmatic approach to certification with a simple and elegant initial aircraft design and is leading the pack in its efforts to bring their aircraft to market. We are looking forward to lending our 75+ years of innovation and expertise in bringing new aircraft into service and developing new markets side-by-side Volocopter.’
Volocopter chief commercial officer Christian Bauer said the company had surpassed 500 pre-orders, including nearly 30 firm orders from reputational partners.
Bristow has also placed firm orders or made provisional agreements with other UAM developers including Lilium, Beta Technologies, Eve, Overair, Vertical Aerospace, and Elroy Air.