PICTURE this – you’re surveying the gridlocked CBD from your office on the 29th storey. The associates pile into the room and groan collectively. They, too, realise the crew won’t be making it in time for cocktails and networking – or more importantly, the restaurant’s legendary hors d’oeuvres. You put up a hand to stem the tirade about how ERP isn’t working out at all, and utter the verdict.
“We’re taking the choppers.”
Jubilant whoops, claps on the back, and the celebration of badassery ensues. This scene has hitherto played out only on Hollywood sets or in remote settings like resort islands or retirement havens – but in as soon as three to five years’ time, we could see German company Volocopter‘s first unmanned air taxis start plying set route in even our island’s skyscraper-dominated CBD.
This is not (just) a drill
The Daimler-backed Volocopter and its eponymous aerial vehicles will be conducting trials in the second half of 2019 to figure out if the city’s suitable for such services. The firm’s already working with the Civilian Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), the Ministry of Transport (MOT) and the Economic Development Board (EDB) to make the trials and eventual rollout a reality.
The choppers in question are less your conventional helicopter and more a giant-sized DJI drone with space for two, with the ability to be piloted via remote control or (gulp) go fully autonomous. Antsy? You could pass up one seat for a pilot in the plush cockpit (pictures at end of article).
The current Volocopter model sports 18 rotors which also control the pitch and yaw of the craft. The craft, by the way, already flew Dubai’s crown prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed for five minutes back in September 2017 as part of a similar trial in Dubai. How’s that for a vote of confidence?
What’s it going to cost?
It’s far too early in conceptualisation to work out cost per trip, but it’s reasonable to say you’d easily hit four figures per on-demand trip in the scene’s nascent stages. For reference, startups that leverage conventional helicopters and preexisting routes in Sao Paulo and New York range from $300 to over $2,900.
Once more companies (such as America-based Bell Helicopter) commits to the arms race of securing a slice in the lifestyle pie of Singapore’s affluent – we’ve got over 180,000 millionaires on the island now – that could come down drastically. Other factors such as the number of available helipads, and how to cut building owners in for usage of said helipads, will also play a role in the final prices.
With such a price tag it’s only fair to peek into the cockpit, and we’re liking what we’re seeing: stitched leather, bucket seats, and an expensive-looking interior… all composing the perfect backdrop for an Instagram story of your grand entrance.