The development of eVTOL vehicles for urban air mobility is only one aspect of the technology. No matter how effective devices are invented, they cannot do without the appropriate infrastructure. Just like trains have stations, buses have bus stations, river buses have berths, so eVTOLs should have their own boarding areas where passengers can comfortably wait for their transport. Concepts for such terminals already exist. One of the most famous companies involved in the development of infrastructure is the British Skyport.
Watch Out, the Propeller Is Starting!
What is a vertiport for? Of course, almost all manufacturers of eVTOL devices rest on the fact that their devices can take off and land using almost any patch of land, do not require special conditions for maintenance, and are easily integrated into existing cities. Nevertheless, modern infrastructure still needs to be improved – both aircraft and passengers need it.
Aircraft need to be recharged and, if necessary, undergo minimal maintenance between flights. Passengers need a comfortable place to wait for transport, equipped with at least basic amenities: a waiting room, toilets, a cafeteria. Only in this case, eVTOL devices can become a full-fledged part of urban air mobility.
The work of Skyports is built around three main operations.
1. Infrastructure planning. The company analyzes passenger flows and promising routes for air travel. After that, he negotiates with the city authorities, as well as the owners of the land on which the vertiports are planned to be located.
2. Design and construction of vertiports. The key properties of Skyports structures are low cost, quick construction, and accessibility for all potential air traffic operators. To showcase the capabilities, Skyports partnered with Volocopter to unveil the world’s first passenger vertiport in Singapore in October 2019.
In 2019, Volocopter held a highly publicized demo of its VoloCity product in Singapore. eVTOL flew over Marina Bay, covering 1.5 km (0.9 miles) in two minutes at an altitude of about 40 meters (44 yards). It is worth noting that the project enjoys great support from the Singaporean authorities and is considered by Volocopter as the start of the Asian expansion of the air taxi.
VoloPort is essentially a stopping point for VoloCity. It provides all the necessary infrastructure for air taxi passengers. It is assumed that the first VoloPorts will be located near airports, train stations and other transport hubs, and subsequently become a network of points covering the entire metropolis.
3. Maintenance and operation of vertiports.
Technology will play a critical role in making vertiports safe and efficient. Technology integration is at the heart of our design, development and operation of vertiports. At Skyports, we develop our systems in collaboration with vehicle manufacturers, operators and leading aviation technology companies.
First of Its Kind
In November 2021, Skyports announced the creation of the first vertiport in Europe. It will be in Paris and is needed for the commercial launch of urban air mobility for the 2024 Olympics.
The launch of the vertiport is part 3 of the Re.Invent Air Mobility program launched by French airport operator ADP Groupe. The vertiport will be built at the Cergy-Pontoise airfield in the suburbs of Paris. It will be a testing ground for the practical testing of technologies critical to the development of urban air mobility in Europe. The main challenge for Skyports in this project will be the integration of the vertiport into the existing airfield infrastructure. However, the company expects that this experience will significantly increase its expertise and provide the necessary knowledge for future partnerships with infrastructure companies around the world. Also, the obtained data will be needed to develop the regulatory framework for urban air mobility.
The vertiport at Cergy-Pontoise will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including biometric identification, charging equipment and a meteorological station. It will be used by leading developers of eVTOL devices: Volocopter, Vertical Aerospace, Airbus, Pipistrel and eHang.
To further explain how these principles will work in practice, in April 2022, Skyports, in collaboration with California-based eVTOL developer Wisk Aero, released a vertiport operations concept (pdf) description. The paper describes a potential passenger journey on an autonomous aircraft. Companies are discussing how the interaction between the aircraft, the operator of transportation and the vertiport will be organized.
The concept describes the requirements for the aircraft, passenger accommodation, scheduling sleigh and navigation apparatus. In addition, the companies assume that at the first stage, eVTOL flights will still be manned. Therefore, the transition to autonomous flights will require the restructuring of vertiports.