Like oth­er coun­tries around the world, Aus­tralia is embrac­ing the emerg­ing eVTOL and Drone Indus­try with enthu­si­asm. Its Gov­ern­ment trade web­site pro­claims of hav­ing a “High­ly skilled, tech-savvy tal­ent that attracts glob­al enter­prise…” And goes on, “This makes us one of the most inno­v­a­tive coun­tries in the world… Our out­sized AUS167 bil­lion tech­nol­o­gy sec­tor has grown 26 per­cent since the onset of the pan­dem­ic…”

Con­clud­ing, “Investors and glob­al tech devel­op­ers know that Aus­tralian con­sumers are tech­nol­o­gy ear­ly adopters who are open to change. This makes us a great mar­ket to tri­al and pio­neer new ser­vices.” While exul­tant words, Euromon­i­tor ranks the Aus­tralian peo­ple fourth in the world for dig­i­tal con­sump­tion. There­fore, it is of no sur­prise Aus­tralians have seized the green avi­a­tion rev­o­lu­tion with fer­vour and gus­to, par­tic­u­lar­ly giv­en the size of the coun­try and where around 7 mil­lion or 28 per­cent of its pop­u­la­tion live in rur­al or remote areas.

The drone deliv­ery indus­try is par­tic­u­lar­ly well advanced. Two com­pa­nies dom­i­nate: Wing and Swoop Aero. Present­ly, Queens­land is the pri­ma­ry hub for Australia’s tri­als. Logan city in Bris­bane is par­tic­u­lar­ly active.

Wing has been exten­sive­ly test­ing its drone deliv­ery of a wide vari­ety of every­day prod­ucts dur­ing the last three years. The U.S‑based com­pa­ny has car­ried out over 200,000 suc­cess­ful Aus­tralian deliv­er­ies since its first launch in April, 2019. (please read the inter­view below).

Mean­while, Swoop Aero focus­es more on health­care and deliv­er­ing med­ical prod­ucts while proud­ly embla­zon­ing the “Drones for Good” ban­ner. After oper­at­ing suc­cess­ful­ly in Africa, the com­pa­ny began tri­als last year in the States of Queens­land and Vic­to­ria fly­ing items to remote com­mu­ni­ties.

Sev­en months ago, the com­pa­ny made an impor­tant break­through by receiv­ing the go-ahead from Australia’s Civ­il Avi­a­tion Safe­ty Author­i­ty (CASA) to oper­ate a drone logis­tics remote oper­a­tions cen­tre at its cam­pus in Port Mel­bourne, Vic­to­ria. The approval means the com­pa­ny is able to “oper­ate like an inter­na­tion­al air­lin­er” and cen­tralise oper­a­tions in one facil­i­ty, includ­ing remote­ly mon­i­tor­ing glob­al enter­pris­es across Ocea­nia, Africa and Europe, as well as oper­ate up to five drones Beyond Visu­al Line of Sight (BVLOS) by a sin­gle pilot lead­ing to 30 or more lat­er on, putting Swoop on track to pro­vide glob­al ser­vices to one bil­lion peo­ple by 2030.

In recent months, Aus­tralian col­lab­o­ra­tions have been announced includ­ing one with phar­ma­cy chain, Ter­ry­White Chemist, and anoth­er with Mater Pathol­o­gy. The for­mer is in part­ner­ship with the country’s largest health­care whole­saler, Sym­bion. The tri­als will soon com­mence from the town of Goondi­win­di, locat­ed on the Queensland/New South Wales bor­der.

The lat­ter is to trans­port med­ical sam­ples includ­ing blood tests and Covid-19 swabs from South­east Queens­land’s More­ton Bay islands to Mater test­ing labs.

Swoop Drone Deliv­ery (Image: Swoop)

The part­ner­ship is expect­ed to slash up to six hours off the time it takes for sam­ples to reach for test­ing, with the bi-direc­tion­al net­work expect­ed to col­lect more than 80,000 pathol­o­gy sam­ples a year.

The news came four months after Swoop raised USD18 mil­lion in a Series B fund­ing round led by Main Sequence Ven­tures. Swoop had been offered USD100 mil­lion buy-out by a U.S defence con­trac­tor which the com­pa­ny turned down.

Sur­pris­ing­ly, eVTOLs are slow to catch on. There is no seri­ous home-based com­pa­ny involved in man­u­fac­tur­ing fly­ing taxis which has opened up the mar­ket for oth­ers like Eve Air Mobil­i­ty and Wisk Aero to cap­i­talise on.

Eve made its first for­ay in Decem­ber 2021 after announc­ing a deal with Nau­tilus Avi­a­tion, one of North­ern Australia’s largest heli­copter oper­a­tors. Through this col­lab­o­ra­tion, Nau­tilus has ordered up to 10 air­craft from the eVTOL devel­op­er to be used in Queensland’s tourism areas, includ­ing the Great Bar­ri­er Reef. Two months lat­er Eve then dis­closed it had received two fur­ther orders for up to 90 eVTOLs from Avi­air and HeliSpir­it (50) and Microflite (40).

Eve Air Mobil­i­ty ‘Nau­tilus (graph­ic image: Eve)

Avi­air, an air­line and char­ter com­pa­ny and Helispir­it, a heli­copter tour agency, intend to oper­ate the air­craft in West­ern Aus­tralia, offer­ing flights to tourist attrac­tions in the Kim­ber­ley, South-West and Greater Perth regions. Deliv­ery is expect­ed in 2026.

The 40 eVTOLs for Microflite, a heli­copter ser­vice com­pa­ny, are also sched­uled for the same year, but this time to Mel­bourne in south-east­ern Aus­tralia. There, the air­craft will be used in gen­er­al Urban Air Mobil­i­ty appli­ca­tions. The part­ner­ship plans to work with munic­i­pal­i­ties and oth­er stake­hold­ers to cre­ate a “safe and scal­able oper­at­ing envi­ron­ment for eVTOL oper­a­tions”.

Jonathan Booth, CEO of Microflite, com­ment­ed, “After work­ing close­ly with Eve over the past few months, we have iden­ti­fied a net­work of poten­tial routes and we look for­ward to work­ing with com­mer­cial part­ners and com­mu­ni­ties to pri­ori­tise these routes and tri­al select­ed oper­a­tions with our exist­ing fleet.”

Wisk is also eye­ing up Aus­tralia, sign­ing a Mem­o­ran­dum of Under­stand­ing last year with the Coun­cil of May­ors South East Queens­land. The two organ­i­sa­tions will work togeth­er to intro­duce a safe, sus­tain­able and scal­able autonomous air taxi ser­vice to South East Queens­land, even­tu­al­ly lead­ing to a full ser­vice dur­ing the 2032 Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games in Bris­bane.

The State’s mix of rur­al, beach and city land­scapes makes it an ide­al loca­tion for tri­als and launch­ing inno­va­tions such as eVTOL air­craft.

Wisk Aero Gen 6 (image: Wisk)

Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk, remarked, “This will not only ben­e­fit Wisk, but local com­mu­ni­ties and the indus­try as a whole. We look for­ward to build­ing on the strong rela­tion­ships we have in Aus­tralia to make safe, all-elec­tric, autonomous flight a real­i­ty.”

Yet, with­out infra­struc­ture, there will be no Aus­tralian eVTOL indus­try and the coun­try is for­tu­nate to have a high­ly enter­pris­ing indi­vid­ual called Clem New­ton-Brown, who via his com­pa­ny Sky­portz (not to be con­fused with the UK-based Sky­ports), is pio­neer­ing Australia’s ver­ti­port net­work.

Back in Octo­ber 2021, Newton-Brown’s ambi­tion came to the fore when he announced Sky­portz first Aus­tralian infra­struc­ture for air taxis would be built at the Aus­tralian Advanced Man­u­fac­tur­ing Cen­tre of Excel­lence (AACME) in More­ton Bay, Bris­bane in 2023.

In fact, the com­pa­ny has been accu­mu­lat­ing poten­tial ver­ti­port sites since 2018 and now has well over 400 prop­er­ty part­ners ready to con­struct a Sky­portz net­work.

The com­pa­ny is work­ing along­side both Aus­tralian Fed­er­al and State gov­ern­ments to assist devel­op­ment of the stan­dards, reg­u­la­tions and zones for the Sky­portz ‘mini-air­ports’ to be locat­ed in and around cities and region­al cen­tres.

Clem New­ton-Brown

Ty Her­mans, Direc­tor of AAMCE, stat­ed, “To us it makes per­fect sense that the most advanced man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­tre in Aus­tralia should include the most advanced trans­port sys­tem pos­si­ble in its design. Bris­bane is busi­ly prepar­ing for the Olympic Games in 2032 which will pro­vide a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for the city to embrace a new form of trans­porta­tion and show­case it to the world.”

Adding, “This will put Aus­tralia on the map and we expect that by 2032 we should have a well estab­lished elec­tric air taxi ser­vice in Bris­bane, if we gain the sup­port of all lev­els of Gov­ern­ment.”

Then last August, giv­en the flu­id­i­ty of this emerg­ing indus­try, Sky­portz announced at the AAUS annu­al Advanced Air Mobil­i­ty sum­mit, the design for the first ver­ti­port in Aus­tralia is now to be locat­ed at Caribbean Park in Melbourne’s east, the fastest grow­ing enter­prise precinct out­side of its Cen­tral Busi­ness Dis­trict.

Look­ing more like a Yes music album cov­er cre­at­ed by Roger Dean, the look is impres­sive and very futur­is­tic (see image below). The design came about after col­lab­o­ra­tions with Con­tr­eras Earl Archi­tects, to70 avi­a­tion, ARUP and Microflite.

New­ton-Brown com­ment­ed, “With the devel­op­ment of a ver­ti­port in a busi­ness park we are break­ing the nexus between avi­a­tion and air­ports. The Caribbean Park ven­ture is the first in a net­work of sites we will estab­lish in advance of eVTOLs becom­ing oper­a­tional.”

He con­tin­ued, “For this indus­try to suc­ceed it needs to have pol­i­cy mak­ers push­ing the enve­lope to sup­port new “mini air­ports” in loca­tions peo­ple want to go.” Adding, “Com­mu­ni­ty sup­port is going to be the key to the devel­op­ment of these ser­vices where the ben­e­fits must be clear­ly shown.”

Some view this approval as a major mile­stone. The loca­tion will sup­port the Mel­bourne urban area’s com­mut­ing require­ments, where the project’s suc­cess is large­ly con­tin­gent on effi­cient­ly link­ing to oth­er parts of the trans­porta­tion sys­tem. This includes the Mel­bourne Inter­na­tion­al Air­port as well as cities near­by, like Gee­long, along­side the poten­tial of trans­form­ing heli­copter land­ing pads to cre­ate a net­work of eVTOL routes to form a main hub in and around the city.

Mean­while, last year the Fed­er­al reg­u­la­tor, CASA released a roadmap for the intro­duc­tion of Advanced Air Mobil­i­ty (AAM) to Aus­tralia.

Please Read the AAM Roadmap–06/the-rpas-and-aam-roadmap.pdf

This was fol­lowed in late Novem­ber by a CASA Paper enti­tled ‘Guide­lines for Ver­ti­port Design — Draft Advi­so­ry Cir­cu­lar’ aimed to cre­ate a con­sul­ta­tion peri­od for the indus­try which clos­es on March 31st.

Please Read The Con­sul­ta­tion Paper‑0/

Joe Hain, Team Leader of Future Aero­dromes, explained, “We’ve start­ed the ball rolling by exam­in­ing and out­lin­ing what ver­ti­ports could look like; where and how they might oper­ate; as well as the safe­ty require­ments need­ed.”

This advi­so­ry Paper pro­vides a flex­i­ble frame­work for devel­op­ers to cre­ate a ver­ti­port that can be built in dif­fer­ent loca­tions and be used by dif­fer­ent types of emerg­ing air­craft.

Hain con­tin­ued, “The aim is that ver­ti­ports can be built where they are need­ed, whether it’s on top of a sky­scraper in a high-den­si­ty city, or in an open space of a region­al town.”

To devel­op an inno­v­a­tive eVTOL net­work in any coun­try, a focus is required. Just as France hosts the Olympic Games in 2024 and Amer­i­ca the same in 2028, so Aus­tralia is host­ing the Games in Bris­bane, South East Queens­land dur­ing 2032. What an ide­al focal point for the eVTOL and ver­ti­port indus­tries to embrace.

Com­pa­nies like Wisk and Eve already have one eye on fly­ing ath­letes and the pub­lic from Bris­bane to the Gold and Sun­shine Coasts dur­ing the Games, where, no doubt, oth­er fly­ing taxi man­u­fac­tur­ers will join them.

Final­ly, you can’t dis­cuss the future of avi­a­tion with­out men­tion­ing Alau­da Aero­nau­tics and its extra­or­di­nary Air­speed­er rac­ing craft. Based in Bev­er­ley, South Aus­tralia, the company’s vision is tak­ing For­mu­la 1 and trans­form­ing this to the sky.

Watch Video:

The inspi­ra­tion behind the ground­break­ing ven­ture is Matthew Pear­son who believes that just as For­mu­la 1 has sped up the devel­op­ment of the motor car, so fly­ing rac­ing cars will do the same for eVTOLs.

For more infor­ma­tion