France Approves Flying Taxi Port on Seine River Barge

(Bloomberg) -- The French government approved the use of a barge docked on the River Seine to facilitate the take off and landing of electrically-powered flying taxis during the Olympic Games.

Aeroports de Paris SA, the French capital’s airport operator, can build a so-called vertiport on the river near the Austerlitz railway station in central Paris, according to an official decree published Tuesday. Still, Paris City Hall opposes the project and it remains uncertain whether the flying taxis will be allowed to fly during the Paris Olympics, due to kick off on July 26. 

European startup Volocopter GmbH failed to win European regulatory certification to operate commercial flights in time for the Olympics, however the company has said its VoloCity two-seater aircraft will still be allowed demonstration flights during the sporting spectacle. 

President Emmanuel Macron has been keen to showcase so-called eVTOLs at the games as a symbol of the country’s innovation and technological prowess with visitors envisaged darting across Paris in the helicopter-like craft. However, the industry’s overly-ambitious certification timelines have run up against regulators keen to carefully scrutinize the revolutionary new type of aircraft. 

The Paris vertiport will be allowed to operate until Dec. 31 and only between 8am and 5pm, according to the decree published Tuesday. 

Only two flights per hour and a total of 900 flights overall will be allowed during the “experimentation period,” the decree said, as the government took into account concerns of various city officials and green lawmakers.

Paris City Hall will take legal action against the government’s authorization on grounds that the aircraft will create noise pollution, extra greenhouse emissions and excessive energy consumption, according to Dan Lert, the town hall’s deputy in charge of ecological transition.

“It’s a project for the super rich,” Lert said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

A Volocopter spokeswoman said that its aircraft are meant to complement existing transport systems, and the company would address concerns and questions raised. The spokeswoman said it has successfully raised financing to carry it over through certification of the VoloCity aircraft, although it was unable to name the investors or funding raised due to contractual obligations. 

Representatives for Aeroports de Paris didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Successfully launching passenger service in time for the Paris Olympics would have handed the Volocopter bragging rights over rivals including Joby Aviation Inc. and Archer Aviation Inc. 

(Updates Paris City Hall official’s comments in seventh, eighth paragraphs.)

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