Volocopter Skyports

features Progressing toward eVTOL flight demonstrations at 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Skyports’ vertiport terminal is considered to be a working, living prototype that will be used to test all the end-to-end processes in an urban air mobility (UAM) flight.
By Alex Scerri | November 11, 2022

Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 43 seconds.

With the inauguration of Skyports’ vertiport terminal at Pontoise-Cormeilles-en-Vexin on Nov. 10, Paris is continuing its steady progress toward the urban air mobility (UAM) showcase flights planned for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024.

Volocopter Skyports
With the inauguration of Skyports’ vertiport in Paris, the city is progressing toward its planned eVTOL flights at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024. Groupe ADP / Volocopter Image

This was the third event this year, following the noise measurement campaign in March and the UTM integration tests in September.

In his comments prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Duncan Walker, founder and CEO of Skyports, said discussions around launching UAM has been ongoing for five years and many have been skeptical. However, in a European first, this inauguration brings the industry one step closer to public commercial operations.

Walker lauded Groupe ADP for its investment and commitment to the project, and thanked his team and all other partners.

While the visible demonstration is important, there is a lot of underlying technology needed to enable a safe, secure, and seamless passenger experience. The event was the first time that Skyports integrated these systems with those of an operator — in this case, Volocopter’s VoloIQ.

Volocopter Skyports
From left are Damien Cazé, director general of DGAC, Benoit Jimenez, who represented the leadership of Region Île-de-France, and Duncan Walker, founder and CEO of Skyports, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the vertiport terminal at Pontoise-Cormeilles-en-Vexin on Nov. 10. Alex Scerri Image

Besides the passenger experience, the upcoming test program will trial flight procedures, such as aborted take-offs, baulked landings, and other contingencies.

Walker insisted that building the physical terminal buildings and flying actual aircraft was the best way to comprehensively test operational scenarios before commercial launch.

Dirk Hoke, Volocopter’s CEO, said that many stakeholders are projecting that UAM will launch around 2030. However, Volocopter is aiming for summer 2024 for the Paris flights — just 18 months away — making this close-knit collaboration between the stakeholders vital.

Damien Cazé, director general of the DGAC (Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile), France’s aviation regulatory authority, made note of the work that has been accomplished in just one year since the Pontoise sandbox was launched.

Volocopter Skyports
Skyports’ vertiport terminal is considered to be a working, living prototype that will be used to test all the end-to-end processes in an urban air mobility (UAM) flight. Groupe ADP / Volocopter Image

He said the authority’s remit is also to protect the general public — not just the providers and users of the service. Lower noise levels and clean energy sources used by UAM aircraft are important in reaching these pledged environmental targets, he said.

Coincidentally, Groupe ADP CEO Augustin de Romanet’s comments were partially drowned out by a Robinson R44 landing just outside the hangar. He humorously said that the helicopter’s loud interruption is one of the purposes behind the sandbox.

After the inauguration, Benoit Jimenez, representing the leadership of Region Île-de-France, told Vertical that the regional council strongly supports the project. The council believes that UAM will be an invigorating catalyst to further connect business and leisure nodes across the Parisian agglomeration and the rest of the region.

Vertiport terminal design

Alex McCord, vertiport development lead at Skyports, said that the vertiport terminal on display can be considered a working, living prototype that will be used to test all the end-to-end processes.

Volocopter Skyports
Passengers can get through the boarding gate in Skyports’ vertiport terminal using QR codes, which are readily available and inexpensive to use. There is also the possibility of using RFID technology. Alex Scerri Image

One of the goals is to have a smooth passenger flow by minimizing touch points. This is also a time to discreetly weigh the passengers and their luggage — essential information for flight planning, and load and balance calculations.

McCord said that the group is cognizant that different jurisdictions will have diverse requirements. As such, the vertiport design is modular to allow for security checks, passport control, etc., for possible cross border flights.

Access control can be achieved using QR codes, which are readily available and inexpensive to use. There is also the possibility of using RFID technology that could further speed the process.

McCord also noted that the vertiport is designed with accessibility in mind when it comes to passengers with reduced mobility. Skyports wants to ensure that the service is available to everyone from the vertiport side, with the only limiting factor being the capability of the aircraft.

The vertiport aims to be aircraft agnostic. For example, Volocopter, which took part in the event with a crewed flight of its 2X prototype piloted by Paul Stone, as well as the VoloCity mock-up, will need a battery storage capability to facilitate its battery swap concept. Other aircraft may need high power, direct charging capabilities.

In terms of whether flight testing would include the obstacle-free volume concept, as described by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), McCord said that wherever possible, the group will try using slope values, as in helicopter final approach and take-offs (FATO) obstacle-free surfaces, to provide additional flexibility. But the obstacle-free volume would open the possibilities of close in-urban applications, provided the aircraft performance supported it.

Paris 2024 vertiport locations

Besides the previously revealed locations of Le Bourget Airport, Issy-les-Moulineaux (Paris city center’s current heliport), and Saint-Cyr (near Versailles Palace), a new city vertiport will be constructed adjacent to the Austerlitz train station at the southeast edge of the city center.

Renderings shown at the event indicate that this will be a floating vertiport on the left bank of the Seine River. Although this appears to be within the P23 prohibited area overlying Paris up to 6,500 feet (1,980 meters), the area is connected by an existing visual flight rules (VFR) helicopter route that services a local hospital.

Tenders for the construction of this and other vertiport infrastructure are expected to be issued in the first quarter of 2023.

Volocopter VoloIQ and operations center

Paalo Dewitz, senior product owner of the VoloIQ e-commerce platform and Volocopter apps, demonstrated the booking app, which uses facial recognition technology to facilitate check-ins at the airport.

The user would upload an image of themselves prior to the flight, which is then verified with a facial scan at the time of check-in. It is still to be determined if this will be an on-demand or a schedule system, with the company hinting that it could be a mix of both.

Volocopter Skyports
Volocopter’s control center displays continued safe flight and landing (CSFL) in blue triangles on the main map display. Alex Scerri Image

Florian Müller, ecosystem and venture manager of digital platform at Volocopter, said the operations center gathers data from a variety of sources, such as crew scheduling, battery scheduling to support the battery swap concept, weather, bird hazards, and other flight information that can be graphically overlayed on a map.

An interesting feature was the representation of landing locations to support continued safe flight and landing (CSFL), in relation to VTOL-capable aircraft certified in EASA’s category enhanced specification.

The system continuously monitors the state of the charge and health of the battery, as well as the technical status of the aircraft, to ensure that the destination or one of the alternate locations can be reached at any point in the flight.

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