Airbus Helicopters has taken a step forward on the CityAirbus electric air-taxi concept with power-on of its "iron bird" ground-test rig.

Located in Taufkirchen, to the south of Munich – adjacent to an Airbus group facility in Ottobrun, and 60 miles (100km) from the manufacturer's plant in Donauwörth – the rig will enable Airbus Helicopters to verify the vehicle's entire electric propulsion system.

If the tests prove successful, the system – which uses batteries to power four pairs of ducted rotors – will be installed on a demonstrator aircraft in mid-2018.

Siemens is providing the motors, power electronics and distribution system for the CityAirbus project, part of a broader co-operation with the aerospace giant on electric propulsion.

Airbus Helicopters has produced the first structural parts for the demonstrator aircraft and expects to achieve first flight by end-2018. Manned flights of the four-person vehicle are due in 2019.