The FAA has taken what could prove to be a key step in laying the groundwork for eVTOL aircraft operations by issuing guidelines for design the vertiports they will use. The September 26 release of the final standards, contained within the FAA’s Engineering Brief No. 105, Vertiport Design, follows public feedback from the draft guidance issued earlier this year, including discussions from the virtual Industry Day on March 29, the agency said. In the engineering brief (EB), the agency added that the guidance is interim and would be updated as more real-world data on eVTOL aircraft operations become available.
“At this time, the FAA does not have enough validated VTOL aircraft performance data and necessarily is taking a prescriptive and conservative approach with the recommendations in this EB,” the engineering brief notes. “Vertiport guidance is expected to evolve into a performance-based design standard, potentially with aircraft grouped by their performance characteristics.”
With an expectation that eVTOL operators will operate in rural, urban, and suburban areas, the design standards address requirements for looking to add airports at their facilities, as well as for those that may be developed atop buildings or other existing structures. The standards and guidance provide information for designers and builders to follow to ensure safe takeoffs and landings, the agency said, adding the guidance is intended for facilities that accommodate aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less.
These include safety-critical geometry and design elements, such as dimensions for vertiport touchdown and liftoff areas, the additional airspace needed for approach and departure paths, and load-bearing capacity, the FAA said, noting it anticipates the possibility of a high rate of operations at many vertiports in the future. In addition, the guidelines address lighting, marking, and visual aids to ensure the facility is visible as a vertiport. Initial safety standards and guidelines are included for charging and electric infrastructure.
“Our country is stepping into a new era of aviation. These vertiport design standards provide the foundation needed to begin safely building infrastructure in this new era,” said Shannetta Griffin, the FAA's associate administrator for airports.