Skyportz, an Australian company laying the groundwork for a national network of vertiports to accommodate the emerging electric air taxi industry, is seeking to raise $950,000 to fund the first prototype following solid demand from property owners looking to gain a foothold in the sector.
The company, founded and led by Clem Newton-Brown, reached its minimum investment target of $100,000 within a day of the offer opening on crowdfunding platform Birchal.
While Skyportz revealed in September the futuristic design for its first vertiport in Australia to be located at the Caribbean Park office precinct in Melbourne’s east - a facility that could cost as much as $30 million to develop - Newton-Brown says the proposed prototypes will be lower-cost structures designed to make participation in the company’s vertiport network more accessible for property owners.
“We want to build something of a similar DNA to our proposed Caribbean Park facility but in a much more affordable, compact modular system such that it could be built for $500,000 a unit or so,” Newton-Brown tells Business News Australia.
“We are finalising the design of a smaller, modular vertiport with the same flowing design by Raphael Contreras, former lead designer with Zaha Hadid. This fundraise will enable us to fine tune our design and build our first prototype and then take it to the world.”
Newton-Brown says the property industry, including major investors owning industrial and commercial properties, have identified the value of establishing the vertiport network even though the passenger air drones are still in development by the likes of major corporations such as Boeing and Joby Aviation.
"We’re giving individual property owners the opportunity to get a head of the curve in what will be a multibillion-dollar industry,” he says.
“Property owners see value in setting up the network now and our prototype will enable property developers to incorporate a modular fixed-price structure. It might not be used for aviation purposes for now.
“It may be used as a café or bar, but it will give them a head start on others. They could even be used for drone service deliveries now.”
Newton-Brown says the minimum target in Skyportz first capital raising will fund the design of the modular facilities and protect the IP involved in preparing the structures for electric air taxi purposes.
“If we raise the full amount, we will have enough to build a prototype,” he says. “If we don’t raise the full amount, we will then be looking to a big investor to fund our first prototype.”
The Skyportz raise currently stands at more than $209,000 from 136 investors with the raising closing on 10 November 2022.
“We certainly have enough now to proceed with the next phase of finalising our design and getting it costed. It will be a modular construction of aluminium, fully recyclable and able to be transported anywhere in the world via a shipping container."
Skyportz has identified about 400 potential sites for vertiports across Australia, securing option agreements with property owners that Newton-Brown says will make Australia development-ready to deliver the necessary infrastructure once the regulatory framework for air taxis is in place.
“The whole industry is dependent of having a lot of locations where these vehicles can land and that’s what Skyportz is about – collecting those interested property partners.
“We have hundreds who have expressed interest, and some want to take it a step further. They see it as a huge marketing advantage that can promote their development as being vertiport ready. They can attract tenants knowing they can get goods in and out by air and also they might be able to charge more rent by providing that facility.”
While Skyportz has identified Melbourne and Brisbane as the frontrunners for a vertiport network, he has also been invited by the Cairns Chamber of Commerce to potentially set up a network that could service passenger movements from the mainland to Great barrier Reef islands along the Far North Queensland coast.
The industry is also broadly supported by the federal government, with the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development investing $32.6 million to establish the emerging aviation technology partnerships.
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