By Simon Spells, Richard Hakes and Julia Norsetter of global law firm Reed Smith
As eVTOLs (Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing vehicles) gain popularity, the need for proper infrastructure to support them becomes ever more pressing.
eVTOLs have the potential to revolutionize urban transportation by offering a faster and more sustainable alternative to traditional ground transportation. However, to fully realize this potential, a new kind of infrastructure is needed.
The first and most obvious requirement for eVTOL infrastructure are building vertiports (landing and takeoff pads). Unlike traditional aircraft, eVTOLs can take off and land vertically, meaning they do not require a runway. However, they do need designated landing and takeoff pads that are appropriately sized and spaced throughout urban areas. Not an easy job currently, with eVTOLs in many different sizes and shapes being developed.
One of the biggest challenges in building this infrastructure is finding suitable locations for these vertiports. In urban areas, space is at a premium, and finding enough open spaces to build vertiports can be difficult. Many companies are exploring the idea of building vertiports on top of existing buildings, which could be an innovative solution to the space problem but could run in to safety and/or regulatory issues.
Another key component of eVTOL infrastructure is the charging and battery-swapping stations. eVTOLs are electric vehicles and need to be recharged between flights. These charging stations must be strategically located to ensure that eVTOLs can complete their flights without running out of power. Battery-swapping stations are another option, which could allow eVTOLs to swap out depleted batteries for fully charged ones quickly, allowing them to return to service faster. One challenge for regulators will be ensuring that battery charging and battery-swapping stations are manufacturer agnostic and can support an array of eVTOL aircraft charging activities.
Building eVTOL infrastructure requires careful planning and coordination with government authorities. The infrastructure must be designed to be safe and efficient, while also being easily accessible to eVTOLs. This means that the infrastructure must be designed with the needs of eVTOLs in mind, such as their size and weight, as well as their flight patterns and requirements.
Another important consideration when building eVTOL infrastructure is the regulatory environment. eVTOLs are still a relatively new technology, and regulations around their use and operation are still being developed. Infrastructure must be built in compliance with these regulations to ensure the safety of passengers and the public.
Recently we have seen a spate of infrastructure deals being struck:
- Australia: https://transportup.com/headlines-breaking-news/vehicles-manufactures/pelligra-and-skyports-partner-to-explore-australian-vertiport-opportunities/?shared=email&msg=fail
- Singapore: https://skyports.net/seletar-aerospace-park-to-support-advanced-air-mobility-growth/
- Dubai: https://skyports.net/skyports-infrastructures-design-for-vertiports-approved-in-dubai/
An additional challenge for infrastructure developers will be ensuring that their designs can accommodate an array of vehicles. Dozens of eVTOL manufacturers have their sights set on this exciting market opportunity. While the number of manufacturers enhances technological development and options for consumers, it also means that many different eVTOL aircraft are being proposed and constructed. To overcome this challenge, we have seen manufacturers and vertiport developers work together on infrastructure designs to ensure the designs meet the special needs of the aircraft.
The development of eVTOL infrastructure is essential to fully realizing the potential of this new technology. While there are still many challenges to overcome, such as finding suitable locations for landing pads and developing regulations around their use, the potential benefits of eVTOLs are too significant to ignore. The creation of a new kind of infrastructure for eVTOLs could transform urban transportation, making it faster, more efficient, and more sustainable than ever before. However, the development of such infrastructure and its regulations needs to go hand in hand with eVTOL development, otherwise our highway in the sky could end up being a highway to nowhere.