23 May 2023
Since 2019, VFS has held a series of regular workshops on infrastructure to support future operations of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and other advanced air mobility (AAM) vehicles (see www.vtol.org/infrastructure), and has supported the development of initial standards (see “Vertiport Standards Update,” Vertiflite, Nov/Dec 2022).
In the past few months, a number of companies have announced plans to build networks of vertiports and launch test sites to evaluate AAM or develop technologies to support ground operations. The following represents a summary of news concerning AAM infrastructure.
AirNova Plans French Vertiport Network
AirNova intends to build a network of vertiports in France, perhaps beginning later this year. The Bordeaux-based startup launched a €3M ($3.2M) fundraising campaign in October 2022, the results of which will be used for feasibility studies and construction on the first sites. AirNova is seeking to build as many as 20 vertiports per year, establishing a network within and between France’s main cities. The company could eventually offer several vertiport designs for urban and suburban areas, including ground-based infrastructure, rooftop vertiports and heliport conversions. In April 2022, the French government agency INPI awarded AirNova founder Laurent Mathiolon, a civil engineer and real estate developer, a patent for a multimodal vertiport design.
Altaport Proposes Automation Platform
On Dec. 20, Altaport announced that it developed a vertiport automation system to facilitate the management of future vertiports, as well as existing airports and heliports. In a press release, Altaport described the system as capable of automating “resource management and scheduling, ground movement safety monitoring, passenger management, and fee collection.” According to Altaport, the company designed the system using Brazil’s helicopter traffic as a model for future AAM operations and it has reportedly already deployed its technology at heliports in Sao Paulo. Altaport, which is based in Utah and backed by Philo Ventures, says that it will put its technology to use in both Latin America and North America in 2023.
Skyroads Developing AAM Test Site
On Jan. 18, Skyroads announced that it is developing an automated flight test site at Augsburg Airport in southern Germany. In a press release, the Munich-based company said that it expects the site will serve as a laboratory to test and evaluate AAM concepts and operations. To this end, Skyroads has partnered with a series of AAM companies and research institutions, including eVTOL developer Supernal and the Technical University of Munich, among others. The next stage of the project, which is co-funded by the Bavarian government, will see Skyroads and Augsburg Airport develop an agreement to use the airport’s facilities for test and demonstration flights. Founded in 2019, Skyroads (formerly D3 Technologies) is developing an automated airspace management and vehicle guidance system.
Skyway Partners with Siemens, Moonware
Skyway Technologies Corp., a California-based startup, partnered with Siemens on developing the electrical and digital infrastructure for vertiports. In a Jan. 26 press release, Siemens said that the two companies will work on a universal eVTOL charging process and other efforts to standardize the design and operation of vertiports. “The development and efficient operations of vertiports will require innovative solutions to meet the expected demands of fast aircraft turnaround times and a network of varying landing facilities,” said John Kasuda, head of airports at Siemens Smart Infrastructure North America.
On Feb. 3, Skyway announced that it partnered with Moonware on digital solutions for ground services at vertiports. The California-based Moonware has developed an app-based tool, HALO, for coordinating and automating aviation ground services. The two companies will also work on developing requirements for the ATLAS, Moonware’s autonomous and electric pushback vehicle, for operations involving eVTOL aircraft at vertiports. “Vertiport uptime and organization of assets via Moonware’s technologies will increase Skyway’s facility operation offerings value proposition,” said Skyway CEO Clifford Cruz in a statement.
Founded in 2020, Skyway Technologies Corp. announced a collaboration with Brazilian eVTOL developer Eve Air Mobility in October 2022. In November, Skyway acquired AAiM High Consulting, a vertiport research and developing planning consulting service.
Bayards to Develop Vertiport in Japan
On Jan. 31, Bayards Vertiports announced that it will contribute to a team of companies developing vertiport infrastructure in Japan. Bayards Vertiports, a part of the Netherlands-based Bayards Aluminium Construction Group, will work with SafeHUB Systems, a Kentucky-based provider of passenger intake facilities, and SkyScape Japan, an Osakabased development management company. “The eVTOL market must evolve from selling [computer-generated image] concepts to delivering tangible solutions,” said James Earl, business unit manager at Bayards, in a statement. “This MOU brings together three companies that can deliver on the promises made.” Bayards has previously worked with German eVTOL developer Volocopter on a vertiport design handbook of concepts.
Volatus Looks at Vertiports in the Americas
Neenah, Wisconsin-based Volatus Infrastructure, LLC, announced on Feb. 1 that it had signed an agreement with Bellefonte Airport located in Pennsylvania, near The Pennsylvania State University. Volatus says it will build a “public use FAA-compliant” eVTOL vertiport with up to eight landing pads, including a charging station at each pad. The vertiport is expected to be operational later this year. “A project that started out as a way to get fans to Penn State games without sitting in traffic… has turned into what will become the center of an eVTOL ecosystem for the East Coast,” said Grant Fisk, Volatus Infrastructure Co-Founder. “We realized that Bellefonte airport is within 90 miles of all the major cities so it just makes sense to expand this location which will lay the foundation for the eVTOL infrastructure ecosystem for the East Coast.”
Volatus offers three main eVTOL infrastructure designs, a vehicle-agnostic charging station, plus an app and maintenance programs. By tailoring to specific needs while incorporating the latest technologies, their work positively impacts clients and the communities they serve. The agreement follows previous announcements with other partners. Some of these include agreements with eVTOL developers SkyDrive, Eve Air Mobility and AIR, as well as with drone logistics firm Valqari and Australian design firm Play&Co Creative Group. In January, Volatus signed an agreement with VMIC for business development tasks in South Korea. Based in Seoul, VMIC is an aviation start-up with expertise in infrastructure and transportation asset finance, leasing, and management.