Neom, the upcoming giga project in Saudi Arabia, has announced a US$175 million Series E investment in urban air mobility provider Volocopter.
Neom “will take a significant equity stake in the company as part of its strategic engagement with the global (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) eVTOL industry,” according to a report by Saudi Press Agency.
In December last year, Neom and Volocopter agreed to a joint venture whereby Volocopter will operate electric air taxi services in Neom to connect various regions including The Line , Oxagon and Trojena.
In collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Neom and Volocopter are implementing a national test bed in Saudi Arabia to enable the integration of eVTOLs with zero-emission future urban mobility.
Neom aims to implement a sustainable and connected multi-modal mobility system powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.
Neom will invest in eVTOL fleets, operations and infrastructure to localise industry innovation.
“This crucial investment aligns with the ambitious plans announced by Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, and the Chairman of Neom’s Board of Directors, for the Kingdom to achieve sustainability and to develop Neom into an accelerator of human progress. It will contribute to taking humanity closer to a new era of mobility – an era defined by zero-emission, electrically-powered vertical take-off and landing vehicles. Neom and Volocopter will make concepts like air taxis an everyday reality for its residents and visitors,” said Nadhmi Al-Nasr, chief executive officer at Neom.
Dirk Hoke, CEO at Volocopter, added: “This is the first time in history that eVTOLs are being factored into the design of a region that is being built from scratch. This offers a whole new approach to how urban air mobility can increase quality of life in cities. Neom’s investment bears testament to our leading position as a technology pioneer in the race to become the first company to break into the emerging urban air mobility market.”
In addition to Neom, Volocopter has also launched partnerships and offers its services in regions around the world including Paris, Singapore, Rome and China.
In related developments, another mega development in Saudi Arabia – the Red Sea Project – will also be relaying on zero emission aircraft. In July, Red Sea Global has signed a MoU with hydrogen-electric aircraft developer Zeroavia to test and develop zero-emission travel across the destination located along the west coast of the kingdom.
Zeroavia will explore the possibility of converting Cessna Caravan seaplanes using its hydrogen-electric propulsion technology. That technology has already been flight tested in six-seat PAX airframe, while a 19-seat testbed flight is also on the cards.
The 600kW system, targeting certification to support commercial operations of 9-19 seat aircraft, including the Cessna Caravan, will be able to fly 300 nautical miles as early as 2024. The company is also working on a powertrain for 40-80 seat aircraft with up to 1,000 nm range for market entry in 2026.