Melbourne-based start-up Skyportz has formed a new partnership with car parking provider Secure Parking, which could see an additional 400 landing bases for electric air taxis throughout Australian cities in the future.
According to Skyportz, the changing nature of working environments throughout the pandemic has opened up a new opportunity for inner-city parking providers to repurpose rooftop car parks as “drone ports” for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles.
“While there will always be a need for car parking in our cities it may be that the demand is not going to bounce to pre-pandemic levels,” said Skyportz founder and CEO Clem Newton-Brown.
“Car parks are ideal locations for Skyportz facilities. They are generally located in places people want to go and they are constructed to a standard which can take the weight of vehicles on flat rooftops.”
Speaking of the new agreement, Secure Parking CEO Peter Anson said, “Secure Parking is delighted to partner with an organisation that shares our vision for pushing the boundaries to find innovative solutions through next-generation technologies.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with Skyportz as we explore what can be achieved together.”
Skyportz has been working with property owners to establish the landing infrastructure required for the introduction of eVTOL vehicles and air taxis in Australia.
The company said it is focused on introducing a range of Skyportz locations, from existing helipads and airports, on to key suburban and urban locations such as business parks, shopping centres, industrial sites and greenfield city fringe developments.
The mission is to provide key landing infrastructure to support the growing air taxi industry, with over 300 electric air taxi start-ups around the world already working to introduce the technology, and over $8 billion already invested.
Overseas, the industry also continues to pick up steam, with three frontrunners in the eVTOL market – Joby Aviation, Archer Aviation and Lilium – all going public ahead of planned flight testing.
“Without a Skyportz landing site network, these aircraft are not going to be able to realise their full potential,” Newton-Brown said.
“Our networks will be available for all air taxi entrants, and we expect that we will see a major infrastructure investor partner with us when the time is right.”
The Skyportz CEO said his company has also seen “strong political support” amid growing desires for environmentally friendly aviation solutions.
“However, we are waiting on federal standards and new state regulations to be developed before we can proceed to building the network,” Newton-Brown said.
“Community support for this new era in aviation is going to be essential and we expect that services will start outside urban areas in the initial phase expected to commence with the first electric aircraft becoming operational in the next few years,” he added.
In October, Skyportz signed an agreement with US manufacturer Electra.aero for the purchase of up to 100 hybrid electric short take-off and landing (STOL) “air taxi” aircraft, suggesting the air taxi infrastructure company also intends to become a dedicated electric airline.
The first delivery of the new aircraft to Skyportz is expected to take place in 2026, with the first demonstrator model set to grace Australian skies as soon as 2023.
It marks the latest in a number of recent deals that could see air taxis and eVTOL vehicles in regular use around Australia as soon as 2025.
Last year, Embraer offshoot Eve Urban Air Mobility announced a new partnership with Melbourne-based charter helicopter operator Microflite that will work to lay the foundations and “validate parameters” so eVTOL vehicles can launch in the city just five years’ time.
It came shortly after Eve announced a separate partnership with Ascent to allow the revolutionary aircraft to be booked via an Uber-style app.
More recently, two new deals were announced that will see eVTOL aircraft touch down in both Sydney and Cairns – the first announcements of its kind outside of Melbourne.
In December, Eve partnered with Cairns-based helicopter tourism operator Nautilus Aviation in order to bring eVTOLs to Queensland.
Under the agreement, Nautilus is set to welcome up to 10 of Eve’s eVTOL aircraft to replace part of its current helicopter fleet, and perform tourist flights throughout northern Queensland, including the iconic Great Barrier Reef, by 2026.
Then, just days later, Eve penned a deal with Sydney Seaplanes that will see the iconic Sydney-based aviation tourism provider purchase up to 50 of Eve’s eVTOLs, with deliveries also expected to commence in 2026.