The Australian state of Victoria this week introduced a policy document intended to pave the way for the adoption of electric air transportation. The Advanced Air Mobility Industry Vision Statement was published by the state’s economic development minister, Tim Pallas, to outline plans to consult with the community, businesses, and the federal government over appropriate regulations and safety measures, starting in 2023.
The policy was announced on August 30 during the AAUS Advanced Air Mobility Summit in Melbourne. During the same event, infrastructure group Skyportz displayed the design of what it says will be Australia’s first vertiport for eVTOL aircraft at Caribbean Park on the east side of the city.
Melbourne-based Skyportz developed the plans with Contreras Earl Architects, To70Aviation, Arup, and Microflite. “For this industry to succeed, it needs to have policymakers pushing the envelope to support new ‘mini-airports’ in locations people want to go to,” said Skyportz CEO Clem Newton-Brown, who is a former member of the Victoria parliament. “However, community support is going to be the key to the development of these services. The community is going to have to see the benefits.”
In addition to eVTOL air taxi flights, the state government’s Advanced Air Mobility Industry Vision Statement spells out opportunities from AAM in logistics, emergency operations, healthcare, and regional service delivery that would boost economic activity and support new jobs. The document emphasizes that benefits to local communities must be prioritized, along with efforts to support energy security through a switch from fossil fuels to renewable power using sources such as electric batteries and hydrogen.
According to a recent report by Deloitte Access Economics, the introduction of an AAM sector in Victoria would increase the state’s yearly gross domestic product by A$2.8 billion ($1.94 billion) while annually creating 1,300 jobs and generating cost savings of hundreds of millions of dollars. The state has joined the World Economic Forum’s AAM Coalition of Cities and Regions, which also includes Paris, Los Angeles, Orlando, Sao Paulo, and South Korea's Incheon in an effort to share knowledge in the development of ecosystems to support the new transportation mode.
In late 2021, Victoria and Australia’s federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Communications signed a memorandum of understanding with the country’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and air traffic management agency, Airservices Australia, to develop the AAM sector. The agreement provides a framework for the agencies to combine regulatory efforts to ensure that the industry is safe and sustainable.
Last month, CASA published a roadmap for introducing AAM services. The document outlines the approach the agency plans to take to introduce remotely piloted aircraft systems and AAM regulations over the next 10 to 15 years, breaking down a four-phase timeline for action running from this year through 2036. It covers the following regulatory topics: aircraft; airspace and traffic management; operations, infrastructure, people; and safety and security.
Skyportz said it is seeking investment partners to fund the construction of the vertiport at Caribbean Park, which it intends to be part of an extensive network of landing sites across multiple Australian cities. According to the site’s developer, it is the largest and fastest-growing precinct outside Melbourne’s central business district.
“Not all sites will be suitable for vertiports, as an urban environment presents all sorts of challenges for aviation,” said Phil Owen, a senior aviation consultant with To70Aviation. “The Caribbean Park site is perfectly situated on a very large open site with good access and a manageable obstacle environment that allows into-wind approaches and departures from multiple directions.
Several electric aircraft developers, including Wisk Aero and Electra, have been assessing opportunities to launch AAM operations in Australia. The state of Queensland is also viewed as a likely early adopter for cities such as Brisbane.