Vertiport designer and operator Skyports is developing a test vertiport in France; a significant step towards launching commercial advanced air mobility (AAM) services in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The programme is part of the Re.Invent Air Mobility initiative led by French airport operator Groupe ADP, global mobility company RATP Group and Choose Paris Region, a French agency for business and innovation. This is the first development of its kind in Europe and is being supported by DGAC, the French Civil Aviation Authority, and EASA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
The vertiport will be designed, built and operated by Skyports at Groupe ADP's Cergy-Pontoise airfield in Paris, initially serving as a technology testbed to provide a safe and realistic environment to enable the testing of boarding and disembarking operations, recharging batteries and vehicle maintenance, starting June 2022.
The creation of the vertiport forms part of a third campaign in a series of test projects that started in September 2020, when around 30 manufacturers were selected to carry out UAM tests on modelling and noise measurements; flight phases and integration into airspace; maintenance and recharging operations; and passenger routes. A landing and take off area, taxiways, parking stands and warehouse planning has been made available at the Pontoise airfield, and commissioning of this test area was recently marked by a number of trial flights: Skyports enabled a drone flight dedicated to logistics, notably for medical transport (blood bags, health kits, etc); Thales made a deployment in real conditions of its onboard anti-collision system inside Hélifirst helicopters; and Pipistrel performed a recharging operation, followed by a flight carried out using the Green Motion company's certified system, with the support of the French Federation Aviation.
Other test campaigns are a noise and vibration impact, with RATP Group, Bruitparif and the DGAC measuring several Volocopter flights in March 2022. The aim will be to quantify, predict and model the sound emissions of an eVTOL both close to and far away in order to meet acceptability criteria. Then comes a test of the proper integration of drones and eVTOLs into conventional air traffic, complying with all the necessary safety conditions, to ensure proper cohabitation with other aircraft. These tests will be carried out with the CORUS-XUAM consortium, a project financed by SESAR JU, under the leadership of Eurocontrol.
The integration of a vertiport within an existing airport site is challenging and complex. Aéroports de Paris/Groupe ADP chairman and CEO Augustin de Romanet says: “Our Pontoise airfield brings together a unique ecosystem around new air mobility, and the trial platform we are launching today is unprecedented in Europe. It will function as a concrete experiment to explore the field of possibilities of a decarbonised and innovative aviation, and to develop the low altitude aviation market (below 300 metres), which has been largely unexplored until now. In Pontoise, we will test all the components of urban air mobility. Groupe ADP will fully play its role as an aggregator of activities to facilitate the surge of new uses that reconcile a smaller environmental footprint, innovation and common utility.”
Skyports’ test vertiport will be equipped with a suite of technologies including biometric identity management, re-charging equipment, situational awareness capabilities and weather stations. The data collected during the testing phase will be essential for the development of AAM regulatory frameworks.
"Technology will play a critical role in ensuring the safety and operational efficiency of vertiports," adds Skyports CTO Ankit Dass. "The integration of technology is at the core of our vertiport design, development and operation. At Skyports we are developing our systems in collaboration with vehicle manufacturers, operators and leading aviation tech companies.”
The main challenges for the development of this new technology concern acceptability, safety and the qualification of uses. Thanks to tests planned by numerous manufacturers over the coming months, among them Volocopter, Vertical Aerospace, Airbus, Pipistrel, Ascendance, Lilium, Joby and eHang, it will be possible to study different scenarios for pre-commercial services for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games based on two lines: the first between the Paris-Issy-les-Moulineaux heliport and the Saint-Cyr airfield; the second between Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Le Bourget airports and Paris city, on a site to be determined.
The vertiport will be constructed using modular technology so that it can easily be relocated to a new location at the end of the programme, serving as the first commercial vertiport in France.