The new Greenbird consortium—which is working to develop advanced air mobility (AAM) in Australia—now has eight member organizations, with electric charging specialist Electro.Aero this week becoming the latest to join the group. Another key new participant is AMSL Aero, which seeks to bring what would be Australia’s first domestically built eVTOL aircraft to market.
According to Greenbird managing director Sara Hales, the country is well placed to be an early adopter of AAM technology and services. “Australia is politically stable, relatively wealthy, and has a unique set of mobility challenges that AAM is well-positioned to solve, particularly within the regional air mobility context,” she told FutureFlight. “Providing improved connectivity between geographically diverse areas is a good way to improve the economic and social performance of regional areas. AAM also offers opportunities to improve equity of access to transport and health care and to optimize [delivery of] other government services.”
Greenbird’s members are mindful that a global one-size-fits-all AAM business model can’t effectively be imposed across all markets. Australia’s landmass is vast but its population is relatively small, and much of it is concentrated along extended stretches of its eastern and southern coastlines.
The consortium’s main purpose is to galvanize and coordinate a combined industry-government response to help AAM fulfill its potential. “It’s time for various levels of government to develop a uniting vision, an actionable strategy, and a pragmatic roadmap for how we are going to ensure AAM in Australia develops in a way that supports Australia and is in the best interests of Australia’s people, communities, and economies,” Hales said.
The good news, she explained, is that discussions between regulators and prospective service providers are gathering momentum. However, in Hales’s view, much of the focus is on how to expand the use of uncrewed drones rather than on larger new passenger-carrying aircraft. “There seems to be a feeling that AAM is an extension of the drone industry,” she commented. “Of course, it isn’t; it’s an extension of aviation, and the first-moving customers are a clear demonstration of this, with existing helicopter operators placing orders for eVTOL aircraft."
Among the new aircraft could be AMSL’s proposed five-seat Vertiia model, which could also carry 500 kg (1,100 pounds) of cargo. Initially, the start-up is working on an all-electric vehicle with batteries, but it also has plans for a hydrogen-powered version.
The tilt-wing design consists of eight sets of motors and propellers installed across a blown-wing structure that surrounds the main fuselage. According to AMSL director Siobhan Lyndon, the company is already flight testing several subscale demonstrator models.
AMSL has not published a clear timeline for service entry but is already engaged in the early stages of a type certification with Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority. It has not stated how much funding it has raised to support its plans or whether it will develop all key aircraft systems in-house or source them from suppliers and partners.
The Greenbird consortium is increasingly looking to the state of Queensland as a promising early testing ground for AAM operations, especially since the city of Brisbane is set to host the 2032 Olympic Games. The group feels that each of Australia’s states will want to shape its own AAM destiny according to its needs and circumstances.
“The Queensland government has an excellent track record in industry attraction, particularly within the aerospace and aviation sectors,” said Hales. “While Queensland’s cities might not be as big as Sydney or Melbourne, Southeast Queensland, considered as a whole, is a large population center, and AAM can add serious value there in terms of overcoming mobility and transport challenges. It also has a range of remote and regional communities where AAM could offer significant benefits.”
The other members of Greenbird are Brisbane’s Archerfield Airport, Griffith University, ground infrastructure group Skyports, aircraft operators Nautilus Aviation and Aviator Group, and planning specialist Aviation Projects.