Victoria seeks leadership role in advanced air mobility in Australia

The Australian state of Victoria this week presented a policy document intended to pave the way for the adoption of electric air transport. The Advanced Air Mobility Industry Vision Statement was released by State Economic Development Minister Tim Pallas to outline plans for consultation with the community, businesses and the federal government on appropriate regulations and safety measures, beginning in 2023.

The policy was announced on August 30 at the AAUS Advanced Air Mobility Summit in Melbourne. During the same event, infrastructure group Skyportz showcased the design of what it says will be Australia’s first vertiport for eVTOL aircraft at Caribbean Park to the east of the city.

Melbourne-based Skyportz developed the plans with Contreras Earl Architects, To70Aviation, Arup and Microflite. “For this industry to succeed, it needs policymakers to push the envelope to support new ‘mini-airports’ in places where people want to go,” said Skyportz CEO Clem Newton-Brown, who is a former member of parliament from Victoria. “However, community support will be key to developing these services. The community is going to have to see the benefits.

In addition to eVTOL air taxi flights, the state government Advanced Air Mobility Industry Vision Statement sets out opportunities for AAM in logistics, emergency operations, healthcare and regional service delivery that would drive economic activity and support new jobs. The document emphasizes that benefits for local communities must be prioritized, along with efforts to support energy security by switching from fossil fuels to renewables using sources such as electric batteries and hydrogen.

According to a recent Deloitte Access Economics report, introducing an AAM sector in Victoria would increase the state’s annual gross domestic product by A$2.8 billion ($1.94 billion) while creating annual 1,300 jobs and generating savings of hundreds of millions of dollars. The state has joined the World Economic Forum’s Coalition of AAM Cities and Regions, which also includes Paris, Los Angeles, Orlando, Sao Paulo and Incheon in South Korea with the aim of sharing knowledge on ecosystem development to support the new mode of transportation.

In late 2021, the Australian Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications Victoria and Australia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) of countries and the air traffic management agency, Airservices Australia, to develop the AAM sector. The agreement provides a framework for agencies to combine their regulatory efforts to ensure the industry is safe and sustainable.

Last month CASA released a roadmap for the introduction of AAM services. The document outlines the approach the agency plans to take to introduce remotely piloted aircraft systems and AAM regulations over the next 10 to 15 years, breaking down a timeline for action into four phases from this year to 2036. It covers the following regulatory topics: airplane; airspace and traffic management; operations, infrastructure, people; and safety and security.

Skyportz said it is looking for investment partners to finance the construction of the vertiport at Caribbean Park, which it intends to be part of a large network of landing sites in several Australian cities. According to the site developer, it is the largest and fastest growing area outside Melbourne’s central business district.

“Not all sites will be suitable for vertiports, as an urban environment presents all sorts of challenges for aviation,” said Phil Owen, senior aviation consultant at To70Aviation. “The Caribbean Park site is perfectly located on a very large, open site with good access and a manageable obstacle environment that allows upwind approaches and departures from multiple directions.

Several electric aircraft developers, including Wisk Aero and Electra, have been evaluating opportunities to launch AAM operations in Australia. The state of Queensland is also considered an early adopter of cities such as Brisbane.

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