The European Patent Office [EPO] recently published a new patent application by German air taxi startup Volocopter protecting a new aerial vehicle design.
The title of the patent application “VTOL aircraft with wing connecting booms” already indicates that the new design includes aircraft-like wings, and looks more like other mid to long-range eVTOL aircraft developed by competitors auch as Lilium or Joby Aviation.
Is Volocopter potentially developing this new vehicle type to move away from its urban intra-city focus towards the longer-range intercity market?
This would be an interesting development and contradict Volocopter’s original pitch of seeing most business potential in the urban transportation context.
The bigger picture
Traditional aviation technology, meaning all the engineering related to aircraft design is by far the most heavily protected IP field.
2/3 of all air taxi related patents filed over the past 20 years fall into this category–ahead of IT, Electronics, and Communications.
According to our analysis, three primary vehicle design types have so far prevailed in the research community:
- Wingless Multicopters (e.g. Volcopter)
- Vectored Thrust Jets (e.g. Lilium)
- Tilt-Wing / Hybrid Aircraft (e.g. Joby Aviation)
The question about which vehicle design performs the best in terms of:
- Aerodynamical efficiency
- Noise level
- Power consumption
is yet to be determined.
Unfortunately, there is very little hard data to compare the current aircraft types of eVTOL manufacturers. Therefore, the validity of the underlying business models and market segmentation remains highly speculative.
Obviously, providing answers to the best design is of high strategic relevance as the design choice has a long-term impact on potential use cases, market size, and commercial viability.
For more insights about the state of air taxi technology and which companies own the strongest patent portfolios, check out our free report Are Air Taxis Ready for Prime Time.