It’s just the ideal time,” says Florian Holzapfel, head of the Technical University Munich’s Institute for Flight System Dynamics. “Three things are coming together: electric motors, autonomous control, and urban area mobility.” If he were referring to driverless vehicles, this might sound like old news, but he is talking about electric flight and its emergence as an urban transport solution over the next decade. Within five years, Holzapfel believes, e-air taxis with an operator on board will be helping to ease road congestion. Californian company Kitty Hawk, for example, has already conducted extensive live tests for its self-flying taxis in New Zealand.
Over the last five years, some EUR 250 million of investment, much of it from China and the U.S., has poured into German small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) working in e-flight. The engine of innovation that is Germany’s Mittelstand is developing a wide range of components for the aircraft.