Picture: Nikolay Kazakov / Volocopter.
Picture: Nikolay Kazakov / Volocopter.
Picture: Nikolay Kazakov / Volocopter.
Picture: Nikolay Kazakov / Volocopter.
Picture: Nikolay Kazakov / Volocopter.
Picture: Nikolay Kazakov / Volocopter.
Picture: Nikolay Kazakov / Volocopter.
Picture: Nikolay Kazakov / Volocopter.
Picture: Nikolay Kazakov / Volocopter.
Picture: Nikolay Kazakov / Volocopter.

SINGAPORE - German air mobility start-up Volocopter debuted its urban air taxi prototype in Singapore on Tuesday, amid hopes that the city-state will become the first country to allow a commercial launch of its services, possibly as early as 2021. 

The prototype took off from Marina Bay, located near the central business district, and circled the surrounding area for about one minute before returning to its launch pad. 

The prototype - the Volocopter 2X - resembles a small helicopter, but is affixed with 18 propellers on a circular overhead attachment, instead of one main rotor. 

In its current iteration, the air taxi can carry one pilot and one passenger for distances of up to 30km, and it can also take off and land vertically. The Volocopter is electrically powered and thus emissions free.

It is expected to be made commercially available in Singapore in two to five years from now, Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter said during a press conference. 

"Standing inside the VoloPort (the landing site for the Volocopter) makes urban air mobility feel extremely real and demonstrates that air taxi operations are not a faraway future," he said.

When queried about the affordability of a Volocopter flight, Reuter said that the goal was to reduce the cost to the equivalent of a limousine ride, making it an "accessible mode of transport for all of us."

The company is planning to eventually move towards autonomously-manned aircraft and to expand the prototype to carry five to six passengers per flight.

dpa