Australian air taxi infrastructure developer Skyportz has teamed up with helicopter services group Microflite for a concept proposal to replace its existing helipad on the Yarra River in Melbourne’s CBD with a new age vertiport facility.
The move follows plans by Microflite, the operator of Melbourne Heliport at Batman Park, to begin transforming its fleet of helicopters with electric aircraft within the next five years when the company expects delivery of the first of the new technology aircraft currently under order.
“There is no doubt that helicopters will soon be phased out in tourism and short commuter flights, and Microflite wants to lead the way in decarbonising aviation as soon as electric aircraft are certified for commercial use,” says Microflite’s COO Rod Higgins.
“Of the many thousands of passengers and tourists that Microflite fly from its Melbourne Heliport each year, an increasing number are asking when the aviation industry will be progressing to sustainable operations.”
The proposed vertiport is the second earmarked by Skyportz for Melbourne which are among a network of 400 sites the company has secured in collaboration with property owners across Australia to accommodate advanced air mobility.
The Melbourne Heliport site at Batman Park joins the company’s earlier proposal for a vertiport at the Caribbean Park office precinct in Melbourne’s east in preparation for the potential introduction of commercially viable electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles in Australia.
The latest proposal, designed by Contreras Earl Architecture in collaboration with Pascall+Watson Architects, will replace the existing Batman Park helipad with a purpose-built vertiport to accommodate the introduction of clean, quiet, electric air taxis.
The proponents see the development leveraging off the Greenline revitalisation project on the north bank of the Yarra River with the development expected to become a ‘multi-modal hub’ for electric scooters, bikes, ferries, hire boats and a cafe.
The Yarra River vertiport proposal was announced this week at the World Air Taxi Congress in San Francisco, with the concept seen as a prototype for inner-city vertiports globally.
“We have been developing designs and concepts for vertiports for five years and we keep coming back to waterfront sites being the most practical to retrofit cities for advanced air mobility,” says Clem Newton-Brown, the CEO of Skyportz.
“The reality is that waterfront sites provide the safest access for electric air taxis in terms of aviation requirements for clear approach and departure paths.
“Waterfront sites are also likely to be one of the few places where land can be found to accommodate terminals and there is also the option for floating landing pads.”
Newton-Brown notes that Paris has five vertiports proposed for the Olympics next year.
“They will be primarily using existing airports and helipads,” he says.
“The one new vertiport they have chosen is to be on the river. This aligns with our thinking that when cities need to actually choose vertiport locations the lowest hanging fruit will be the waterfront locations.”
The Skyportz CEO says the concept design by Contreras Earl Architecture and Pascall+Watson Architects has ‘great potential to be rolled out in waterfront cities around the world’.
The cutting-edge vertiport concept is a fully prefabricated design that accommodates rapid assembly and operational readiness, with Skyportz saying a vertiport could be fully operational within a matter of days of delivery of the construction components to a site.
Skyportz has assessed various potential sites for vertiports nationally, including vacant land and the rooftops of buildings as well as waterfront sites, in a bid to make Australia development-ready to deliver the necessary infrastructure once the regulatory framework for air taxis is in place.
Rafael Contreras, director of the Gold Coast-based Contreras Earl Architecture, says Melbourne is ahead of the game by having two vertiports designed for the city.
“We are proud to be part of the implementation of this new technology and what it means for the future of Melbourne and clean, green travel,” Contreras says.
Martin Neilan, aviation director at Pascall+Watson Architects, sees advanced air mobility (AAM) presenting an opportunity to enhance major cities through 'improved liveability and connectivity'.
"The Melbourne vertiport utilises existing helicopter permissions to offer a quiet, zero-pollution solution that gets its users quickly and quietly to and from a range of metropolitan destinations," Neilan says.
"It forms an ideal complement to the city’s Greenline masterplan objectives in achieving both an environmentally and commercially revitalised Yarra frontage with drastically improved pedestrian access.
"What better way to show-case the spectacle of future flight than in replacing a central city helicopter service in this prominent location with a wonderful new, environmentally sensitive AAM facility for Melbournians.”
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