On The Radar
California-based autonomous eVTOL air taxi developer Wisk Aero and the South East Queensland Council of Mayors (COMSEQ) have published a white paper describing the opportunities and benefits that advanced air mobility (AAM) can bring to the Australian region.
COMSEQ and Wisk have been working together to introduce AAM in Australia since July of 2022 when the two entities signed a memorandum of understanding in which they pledged to collaborate in support of accessible, autonomous, and sustainable flight options in South East Queensland.
Brisbane, the capital of South East Queensland and the region's most populous city, has already been identified as a likely early adopter of eVTOL operations, with some plans hinging on the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games that the city will host. Several companies, including Melbourne-based Skyportz, have been preparing to develop vertiports to support those air taxi operations.
South East Queensland is one of the fastest-growing areas in Australia. It covers about 35,248 sq km (13,609 sq mi) in the easternmost part of the country. It has a population of about 3.8 million, and that’s expected to grow to 5.4 million by 2041. A study by COMSEQ in 2019 found that the demand for transportation services in the region is expected to increase by 30 percent by 2031.
According to the new white paper, the geography of South East Queensland “presents significant opportunities for air taxi services,” with urban and regional centers spread across the state. Electric air taxi services would provide people in the region—which is largely underserved by aviation—with a low-cost, sustainable, and accessible mode of transportation. Of course, the adoption of AAM would also produce economic opportunities and plenty of new jobs for the area’s growing population.
“Our work with Wisk sends a clear message to the rest of the world that Brisbane and South East Queensland are open for business," said Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner. We’re a go-to market for global innovation and technology as the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games draw closer.
“We know technology is changing the way we live, and we want to ensure South East Queensland is at the forefront of opportunities that improve our region’s connectivity, our local environment, and our liveability. This technology will have an important role to play in an integrated regional transport network, complementing other services like rail and metro. It also presents an opportunity to unlock the South East’s tourism market by providing new connections between our coast, island, and rural destinations.”
Founded in 2019 as a partnership between Boeing and Kittyhawk, Wisk is developing a fully electric and autonomous eVTOL air taxi designed to carry four passengers on short trips of up to 25 miles (40 kilometers) without a pilot on board. The company has conducted extensive flight tests with an unpiloted, two-seat prototype called Cora, and it revealed its first production aircraft, called the Generation 6, in October 2022. In September, the company published another white paper on its concept of operations, which details how it envisions an urban air mobility ecosystem with pilotless air taxis.
Wisk and COMSEQ imagine an AAM ecosystem in South East Queensland where eVTOL air taxis would complement existing transportation options as well as infrastructure still under development, such as Brisbane Metro’s new fleet of electric buses and subways, and the Cross River Rail, an underground rail system in Brisbane that's scheduled to be completed by 2025. Air taxi services can also enable shorter commute times for people in regional communities with less robust transportation infrastructure in place, such as Scenic Rim, Somerset, Toowoomba, and Lockyer Valley.
“Queensland has an incredible opportunity to be at the forefront of AAM,” said Catherine MacGowan, Wisk’s Asia Pacific regional director. “The region is experiencing unprecedented growth, and establishing a thriving AAM sector will create important economic opportunities and transportation linkages that will help the region develop in a sustainable way.”