Groupe ADP, Skyports and Volocopter have commissioned Europe's first fully integrated vertiport terminal for the urban air mobility (UAM) industry at a testbed at the Pontoise-Cormeilles airfield near Paris. The launch of the terminal represents the start of a new era for UAM, as the facility allows advanced testing of critical technology and passenger processes.
Groupe ADP chairman and CEO Augustin de Romanet says: “In Pontoise-Cormeilles, we are taking a new decisive step in the development of electric air mobility. The passenger terminal marks the final stage in the development of the Pontoise testbed, and the completion of a Volocopter flight fully integrated into the airfield's airspace is the epitome of a year of very ambitious test campaigns. We are now looking ahead to 2024: the development of all use cases, including health and logistics.”
Introducing a new form of air mobility successfully requires industry-wide collaboration and the support of regulators and government bodies. The UAM ecosystem includes eVTOL manufacturers, physical and digital infrastructure providers, regulators, technology supply chain, cities, governments, the public and others. The fully integrated testbed at Pontoise-Cormeilles enables a variety of stakeholders to test technologies and procedures in diverse configurations in a real-life environment. The opportunity to test on a live airfield is both invaluable and essential to the development of the entire industry.
Skyports CEO Duncan Walker says: “The Pontoise-Cormeilles terminal is a physical demonstration of the fact that innovation won't occur in isolation; it requires collaboration from a multitude of area experts, including operators, vehicle manufacturers and technology developers, each of which have an important role to play in achieving the ultimate objective of commercial AAM services. With the completion of the terminal, we will now begin comprehensive testing of procedures and technologies in a realistic aviation environment, creating a space for Skyports and consortium partners to accelerate the industry.”
The testbed at Pontoise-Cormeilles, designed by vertiport developer Skyports in collaboration with Parisian airport operator Groupe ADP, is aircraft agnostic and offers the entire ecosystem the chance to test and develop its technologies. Most importantly, it facilitates collaboration between the key ecosystem partners, including technology pioneers, regulators and local partners such as the French civil aviation authority DGAC, suppliers and airlines. It will enable the testing of:
- Vehicle integration, ground movement procedures and charging procedures
- Flight scheduling, situational awareness and information exchange
- Passenger journey through the terminal, including security and check-in processes, biometric technologies (provided by SITA), passenger dwell time and aircraft boarding.
The launch event provided an opportunity to demonstrate the end-to-end passenger journey, from arrival at the vertiport terminal to aircraft boarding. A model of the VoloCity, which is being developed as Volocopter's first certified aircraft for commercial services, was featured at the launch in addition to a crewed test flight of the 2X model, the only aircraft currently authorised by DGAC for eVTOL test flights in France. The series of demonstrations by Skyports and Volocopter also featured displays of flight monitoring capabilities and digital operating systems, including Skyports' vertiport operating systems and the VoloIQ.
Volocopter CEO Dirk Hoke adds: “Introducing a new kind of mobility like UAM can only be done successfully with a closely knit, yet open, ecosystem. The testbed at Pontoise-Cormeilles is a stellar example of ecosystem partners collaborating to accelerate the realisation of UAM. We can test processes, integrate new and old systems, and simulate different operational scenarios to create trust and positive awareness of all stakeholders. Together, we will succeed in providing an additional emission-free transport option for the public. Every test is one step closer to commercialisation in time for 2024.”
The testbed is now the most extensive technology-enabled test site for UAM in Europe. The innovation consortium is formed by Groupe ADP, Choose Paris Region and RATP Group, and is made up of 30 ecosystem partners. It has propelled France to the forefront of UAM development. The consortium focuses on a wide range of topics to facilitate the development of the industry, including vehicle development, vertiport infrastructure, airspace integration and public acceptance.
RATP Group strategy, sustainable development and real estate director Marie-Claude Dupuis says: “This year of testing and validation has enabled us to make progress in evaluating the acceptability of these new machines and the urban insertion of vertiports. We are working together on the next steps to test the new advanced air mobility by 2024.”
Paris Region president Valérie Pécresse adds: “The development of low altitude aviation for urban air mobility is an adventure full of promises, for employment, for the environment and for the lives of Paris Region residents. As the leading aeronautical region in France and Europe, Paris Region has all the resources to be a pioneer in this field, and that is why we decided last year to support this exciting initiative financially. Just as the first plane ticket of the first airline company was purchased in 1914 in Florida, I want the first passenger flight in a vertical take off and landing aircraft to take place in our region. The Olympics are an incredible opportunity to showcase and launch this project and promote the site's experimental facilities. We will continue to support this project while remaining vigilant to ensure that the inhabitants of Paris Region benefit from it, in compliance with our decarbonisation objectives, as detailed in the regional economic strategy Impact 2028.”