Taking off from the ICE platform: Deutsche Bahn invests in air taxis – politics

Deutsche Bahn pursues detached plans. Literally. Because if the state-owned company has its way, customers should be able to switch from the ICE to the air taxi in the near future.

Over the past three years, the group has invested nearly € 46 million in a dozen start-ups, including London’s Skyports. This is evident from a letter from the Federal Ministry of Transport, which is at the disposal of the Tagesspiegel.

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The company’s focus is on the “integration of air taxis into the existing transport system” and the existing infrastructure. “Together with Skyports, we are investigating what requirements are set for take-off and landing areas and which special conditions must be taken into account on rail systems,” the letter said.

From an expert’s point of view, it can take decades for air taxis to be available to everyone. But the railway itself is clearly more confident. Boris Kühn of Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures believes that in the “not too distant future”, air taxis are likely to be firmly integrated into the railway infrastructure.

“Drone technology is developing rapidly”

At the end of last year, Sabina Jeschke, Technology Board Member said: “Drone technology is developing rapidly. Rail can and must benefit from this. “And since 2015, the railway company has regularly deployed so-called multicopters, for example to monitor the vegetation along the railway lines or to inspect bridges and structures.

But confidence in the safety of air taxis, at least for passenger transport, is quite low among the population.

According to a study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Labor Economics and Organization IAO in collaboration with mobility pioneer Volocopter, a large majority would generally like to use an air taxi as an alternative to the car or local public transport on the way to work.

However, only 40 percent feel “safe” or “reasonably safe” in a prototype.

Travelers board an ICE Photo: Friedrich Bungert / picture alliance / dpa

The state-owned company does not want to reveal exactly how high the railroad’s financial injection for Skyports is. However, one thing is clear: the investment is unlikely to yield a profit so far.

“Investments are absurd”

The documents from the Ministry of Transport show that the investments of nearly € 46 million in the start-ups – including Skyports and Kepler Communications, a satellite communications company with ‘highest security standards’ – have already lost nearly € 13 million. .

“The fact that Deutsche Bahn is now investing in satellites and air taxis is absurd,” criticized Sven-Christian Kindler, the spokesman for the budgetary policy of the Green Group. “Deutsche Bahn wastes tax money on risky investments.”

The railway is not a venture capital fund and should focus on its core business. “Deutsche Bahn customers do not benefit from these risky investments.”

The Taxpayers’ Association also urges that rail should focus more on its core business: infrastructure and the transportation of people and goods.

“Innovations are certainly also important at Deutsche Bahn – but the company should not get stuck, because ultimately the taxpayer is always liable,” said Chairman Reiner Holznagel de Tagesspiegel. “In order to close gaps in the group, more and more tax money should not be pumped in. The DB Group has postponed the necessary structural reforms for years and has missed the goals of the railway reform. “

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