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Australia seeks to capitalize on AAM potential

By Emma Kelly | September 12, 2023

Estimated reading time 7 minutes, 28 seconds.

The Australian Government believes that Australia has the potential to be a leader in advanced air mobility (AAM) and an advocate for the adoption of emerging aviation technology in the wider Pacific region.

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The Australian Government is looking for stakeholder input on its newly released Aviation Green Paper, which will help set the country’s policy direction for the aviation sector through to 2050. Electra.aero / Skyportz Image

The government is seeking stakeholder input on its recently released Aviation Green Paper – Towards 2050, the precursor to an Aviation White Paper which is scheduled to be released in mid-2024 and will set the country’s policy direction for the aviation sector through to 2050.

The government anticipates that crewed AAM will enter service in Australia by 2030, and envisions public acceptance and technology use to grow rapidly throughout the 2030s. By 2050, it forecasts there could be around 37 million passenger trips annually using AAM, primarily replacing road-based transport and boosting regional air connectivity.

“Over the long term, it is possible that AAM services will improve regional air connectivity and enable new point-to-point networks and on-demand services for short air routes,” the Green Paper stated. Emerging aviation technologies will “transform the aviation sector” and it is essential that policy and regulatory settings are able to support and encourage their adoption, the government said.

The government points to opportunities for the local aviation manufacturing industry. Australian businesses have a strong record leading the development of complex aviation technology, with around 600 Australian companies participating in aerospace manufacturing through global supply chains.

Local companies are already making inroads in the new technology sector, the government said. Examples include Western Australia-based Electro.Aero, which has been at the forefront of developments in charging and storage technologies for electric aircraft, and FlyOnE, which developed Australia’s first electric aviation charge node network and is developing a long-range, four-seat electric aircraft designed for air taxi services.

Meanwhile, Boeing Australia has been at the forefront of developments in autonomous systems and artificial intelligence, and Boeing Aerostructures Australia pioneered carbon fibre production technology in the country.

The government is already investing in emerging technology through programs, such as the Community STEM Engagement Grants, Cooperative Research Centres projects and the Emerging Aviation Technology Partnership Program. As well, the A$15 billion (US$9.6 billion) National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) is expected to be available for emerging aviation technology, and the government is also looking to create an environment that fosters private investment in such technology.

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Western Australia-based Electro.Aero is one of the AAM companies making inroads in the new technology sector in the country. Skyportz Image

Seeking input

The Australian Government is seeking input on how Australia can foster the skills needed for the emerging aviation technology workforce. Earlier this year, the iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre reviewed aviation training schemes and programs relating to digitization and automation and suggested existing schemes are insufficient to support expected growth in the sector. 

New and emerging technologies pose challenges in air traffic management (ATM), with drones and AAM set to increase the volume and complexity of aviation activity. With emerging technologies, Australia’s annual aircraft movements are projected to increase from the current three million to eight or nine million annually, which would require significant change in the way the airspace is managed, in addition to having noise and amenity impact studies on communities, the report stated.

The Australian Government is already leading the development of an uncrewed aircraft system traffic management (UTM) ecosystem, and through the Green Paper process, is seeking industry input on how an open commercial and competitive UTM market could operate.

Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is working with air navigation service provider Airservices Australia and the Department of Defence on a long-term implementation plan for an Australian Future Airspace Framework that is “transparent, consistent and scalable to support airspace administration which will comprise of an advance ATM system and UTM.”

Vertiport development

“Vertiports placed at convenient, practical locations will be essential to fully realize the benefits of AAM, and the government will have a role in ensuring appropriate guidance, standards and regulation are in place to ensure the highest levels of safety, but also to ensure they are properly equipped to support the technology,” the paper stated.

CASA has established the Vertiport Design and Operations Technical Working Group to ensure it can provide suitable safety guidance to support industry in identifying, procuring and designing vertiports in time for an estimated mid-2025 commencement of commercial operations, the Green Paper stated.

The working group will also advise on options for regulatory oversight of vertiports. Earlier this year, the government established an Advanced Air Mobility Consultative Committee to develop an AAM Strategy, with the committee being the key liaison point for government to engage with industry.

The Green Paper is open for comment until Nov. 30, 2023. The government plans to engage with industry stakeholders through a series of roundtable sessions during October and November, which will lead to the publication of the White Paper in mid-2024.

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