Australian air taxi infrastructure developer Skyportz is ramping up its plans to create a national vertiport network after partnering with emerging electric aircraft charger manufacturer Electro.Aero to bring smaller and remote sites into the fold.
Skyportz founder and CEO Clem Newton-Brown says the partnership is aimed at jointly developing a ‘vertiport in a box’ which it says will offer an affordable modular design for smaller sites looking to position themselves ahead of the proposed introduction of electric air taxi services in Australia.
“The focus in the industry to date has been on larger vertiports located at existing airports,” Newtonn-Brown says.
“This is the low-hanging fruit which will form the essential backbone of an advanced air mobility ecosystem. However, if this industry is to reach its potential we need to break the nexus between aviation and airports and let private property owners develop their own vertiports.”
Skyportz, which last year announced the Caribbean Park office precinct in Melbourne’s east as one of the frontrunners to locate its first vertiport in Australia, is looking for more affordable options that property owners can retrofit into existing buildings.
The Perth-based Electro.Aero, said to be one of the only companies in the world dedicated to providing electric aircraft charging products, earlier this year announced it was developing a shipping container-sized battery system that could offer rapid charging for electric aircraft on solar or low-voltage grids.
“We will soon be releasing a beautiful tiny modular vertiport building that can be delivered to site in a shipping container, and assembled without heavy equipment, complete with a high-powered battery bank and charger with solar panels,” Newton-Brown says.
Earlier this month, Skyportz announced it had joined forces with US-based air traffic navigation provider Skyway to expand the infrastructure for urban air mobility (UAM) in Australia.
Skyway brings to the partnership expertise in urban airspace navigation, vertiport planning and development, and vertiport management systems.
"This partnership is a significant step towards unlocking the potential of UAM," Clifford Cruz, the CEO of Skyway, said at the time.
"By combining our strengths in airspace management, vertiport planning and development, and management systems with Skyportz's vast network of potential landing sites, we are at the forefront of this transformative industry."
Over the past year, Skyportz has secured interest from the likes of existing helipads and airports, as well as suburban and urban locations such as business parks, shopping centres, car parking garages, industrial sites, and greenfield city fringe developments for potential vertiport development.
While Skyportz concedes that the investments required for large-scale vertiports ‘do not stack up for now’, it is aiming to bring more smaller vertiports into its national network via the partnership with Electro.Aero.
Newton-Brown says the Electro.Aero battery pack and solar panels can be ‘hooked in to power the host building' allowing the proposed vertiport building to be used for other purposes ahead of the industry taking off in Australia.
“Skyportz will be getting our network of vertiports and battery packs established now with enthusiastic property owners who will come back later for an aviation use permit,” he says. “In the meantime, they will have developed sustainable power storage and a vertiport building that could be used as a cafe or meeting room.”
Electro.Aero’s battery charging and power storage systems are suitable for all electric air taxis, including fixed wing and eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft.
Electro.Aero CEO Richard Charlton, who announced the partnership with Skyportz at the Revolution Aero conference in Dublin, says he was chuffed to be named supplier of choice for electric aircraft charging infrastructure for the proposed vertiport network.
“As the world leader in aircraft charging technology, Electro.Aero supplies high powered, mobile aircraft chargers suitable for heavy duty eVTOL and fixed-wing operations,” Charlton says.
“Electro.Aero also supplies advanced containerised battery systems to power the chargers, ensuring rapid and consistent recharge times between sorties.”.
Skyportz is forging other partnerships in its bid to prepare Australia for what Newton-Brown believes is the inevitable introduction of electric air taxi services to Australia. The company says it plans to announce new partnerships covering weather data, air traffic management systems, booking services and aviation operators, once its modular design is released later this year.
“We will offer a complete solution for property owners to activate their sites for aviation, and as a modular, fully transportable system we will be able to supply any global market with our partners at Electro.Aero,” Newton-Brown says.
“The key to this industry is breaking the nexus between aviation and existing airports. We need to develop a network of new vertiport sites if the industry is to reach its potential and Skyportz is readying the landscape to partner with infrastructure investors.”
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