Canadian start-up VPorts, which plans to build vertiports and other associated ground infrastructure for eVTOL aircraft, is stepping up its involvement in the United Arab Emirates’ burgeoning advanced air mobility industry.
During the Arab Aviation Summit in Ras Al Khaimah on Wednesday, VPorts signed deals with three advanced air mobility (AAM) companies that will help it stand up and operate an AAM business park in Dubai as an “AAM integrator world center.” On the same day, the company announced plans to build and operate a vertiport at the Ras Al Khaimah International Airport, an Air Arabia hub about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Dubai, on the coast of the Persian Gulf.
The vertiport will be built on a 10,000-sq-m (2.5-acre) site at the Ras Al Khaimah airport and will support all types of eVTOL aircraft. VPorts says the vertiport will initially be dedicated to the transportation of time-sensitive cargo, like medical equipment and human organs bound for transplants, as well as medical patients. The company also plans to offer eVTOL flights for tourists at the vertiport.
‘‘With the support of the Department of Civil Aviation of Ras Al-Khaimah, we are excited to build and operate the first vertiport at Ras Al Khaimah Airport," said VPorts founder and president Fethi Chebil. "This project will enable all AAM partners to accelerate the adoption and deployment of advanced air mobility in RAK and throughout the UAE.”
To help support its vision for AAM in the UAE, VPorts signed new agreements with three key industry players: Japanese eVTOL developer SkyDrive, Virginia-based electric airplane developer Electra.aero, and Abu Dhabi-based business jet operator Falcon Aviation, which aims to become an early adopter of eVTOL air taxi services in the UAE.
VPorts will collaborate with these partners on the technical and business aspects of the new AAM business park “with the aim of using the Dubai integrator center to showcase their operational expertise, provide MRO-related services, if required, test flights in the dedicated airspace, and use the vertiport for commercial purposes,” the company said in a statement.
“With these milestone agreements, Dubai has demonstrated its leadership in the advanced air mobility sector,” said Chebil. “We welcome other partners to join us in shaping the future of the AAM sector by leveraging the world’s first integrator center, including its facilities and dedicated airspace. Our presence in Dubai is in line with our strategy and ambition to build and operate 1,500 vertiports around the world by 2045.”
The AAM integrator center will be at the Mohammed bin Rashid Aerospace Hub (MBRAH), which is part of the vast Al Maktoum International Airport and Dubai South complex. VPorts says it plans to establish its own Vertiport Operation Control Center (VOCC) within the business park. The VOCC will be in charge of managing air traffic integration and setting up communication protocols between eVTOL aircraft, vertiports, and air navigation service providers.
Eventually, VPorts aims to operate a global network of vertiports to support eVTOL operations worldwide. Last year, the company announced plans to build a network of vertiports in Canada’s Québec region. It is also working to construct a vertiport hub in the business aviation enclave of São Paulo International Airport in Brazil, which is expected to open sometime in 2023. By 2030, the company plans to extend its vertiport network in the UAE to include all major industrial areas across the country.
“We look forward to collaborating with each and every emirate to define the location of dedicated vertiports as well as safety and security regulations, flight corridors, urban integration, and business community engagement for this important undertaking,’’ said Chebil.