Vertiports are the infrastructure that will accommodate air cabs in the grand scheme of tomorrow's urban mobility. Opinions about when this mode of transportation will be at the heart of our reality vary greatly from one person to another. For some, it "won't happen in their lifetime" and for others we will see it as early as next year. For VERTIKO Mobility, Jaunt Air Mobility and the province of Quebec, that reality is in 2026.
At the start - Development on the ground
There are still many challenges to be met in order to make the first vertiports a reality. First of all is the certification of the first eVTOL, which will define the first specific safety and operational requirements directly related to the aircraft. If this is sufficient at first, it will soon be necessary to take into account that all the manufactured Vertiports will have to meet all the certification criteria no matter who builds them.
Another challenge is the supply of electricity to the site. Depending on where the site is located and the number of daily rotations envisaged, energy storage systems must be devised and integrated to guarantee operations. Installing such energy reserves in a safe way requires to think about their location and the way they will be supplied.
The management of flights arrival and departure according to the wind direction and the capacities of the different eVTOLs is also a real headache. In collaboration with NavCanada, new routes must be assigned and managed to ensure that the traffic meets the standards already established in general aviation. Consideration must be given to the integration of a whole new type of air traffic with existing traffic.
Passenger and flight safety must also be considered to keep it as smooth as possible without becoming as cumbersome as in a conventional airport. This means knowing which way people will go on the facility and how they will get to their air cab. This may seem simple on the ground, but it's a different approach when you're on the roof of a 30-story or higher building.
Why start development on the ground? Simply because on the ground you significantly reduce the complications for the development and testing period:
Easier and quicker access to the site for installations and improvements;
Easier to find a location isolated from urban areas for testing by being on the ground;
Allows use of existing aeronautical infrastructure;
Allows use of rolling stock;
Allows better positioning for aircraft observation during testing;
But is development on the ground an end in itself? No !
The model will make sense in the context of urban mobility
with vertiports on the roofs of buildings.
In order to offer an interesting urban mobility, vertiports will have to be provided not only in the peripheries, but also in the urban centers. This creates the obligation to install vertiports on the roofs of buildings, like bird's nests. It would be unthinkable to imagine eVTOLs moving between skyscrapers and buildings to get to the ground. It is also important to note that, assuming that the aircrafts are flying over the office towers, the ears of the citizens on the ground will be much less affected by the noise.
Developing on the roofs of buildings
Once the "0" vertiport is well developed on the ground and all aspects are under control and certified by the competent authorities, then the whole reflection related to its installation on the roofs of buildings will begin. If this may seem simple at first glance, imagine what it means to bring people not on the first floor but on the roof.
It will require a rethinking of all human and material travel flows:
Do air cab users who want to save time in their day want to stop on every floor?
Does the building owner want air cab users to utilize the same accesses as his primary clientele?
Are the elevators, whose machinery is normally on the roof, suitable?
Some equipment that needs to be installed in the vertiport definitely does not fit in an elevator. So how do you transport them on a roof?
Once all these questions have been answered, the reality of accommodating air cab customers will then be on the roof and will require an adequate reception area and environment to maintain safety. The way we plan mixed-use developments will change drastically:
Do we keep convenience stores on the first floor?
Do we put them on the roof or on the top floor instead?
Do we duplicate the offer on the ground and on the roof?
Do we generate a circulation of customers between the roof and the first floor?
It is for all these reasons that VERTIKO Mobility wishes to work with major developers on mixed-use real estate projects under development to ensure that all the components of the vertiport can be integrated into the building's construction plan.
In the medium and long term, once a good number of vertiports have been installed on buildings under construction and the systems have been tested, evaluated and improved, it will be possible to consider modifying an existing building to install a vertiport.
What is certain is that everything has to be thought out and that we are currently creating concepts to test them. We are beginning the path to push this towards concrete constructions. Let's not forget that the first eVTOLs will be available in 2026.
In conclusion, it is certain that we must "learn to walk" by doing the first developments on the ground. But there is no doubt that the market will take off with the arrival of this technology in urban areas. Allowing people to significantly reduce their travel time while decreasing their travel budget is the real challenge of this upcoming market.