While the focus for the Advanced Air Mobility market has been the certification of the eVTOL aircraft that will one day fly in our cities, it’s also important to hear from the companies leading the way when it comes to integrating the physical infrastructure needed for take off and landing operations.
eVTOL Insights caught up with Dr. Fethi Chebil, CEO of Canadian AAM infrastructure provider VPorts, who shared more details on the projects it has been working on, and where its focus lies in the coming months.
Q: Let’s start with recent developments. VPorts has been actively working on developing the landing infrastructure required in urban areas for eVTOL aircraft. Could you provide us with an update on your recent successes?
FC: “Certainly. VPorts, headquartered in Montreal and under my leadership, has made significant strides in this field. One noteworthy achievement is the initiation of the certification process for vertiports in South Dubai, with construction slated to commence next year. Additionally, earlier this year, we announced plans to construct the first vertiport at Ras Al Khaimah Airport, covering a substantial 10,000 square feet area.
Q: It’s clear that VPorts is helping to play a pivotal role in shaping the AAM ecosystem. Can you elaborate on your approach to fostering collaboration among key stakeholders, such as regulators, eVTOL manufacturers, and ANSPs, in order to advance the industry?
FC: “Our vision is to create a comprehensive framework and ecosystem where all critical players collaborate seamlessly. This includes regulators, eVTOL manufacturers, ANSPs, and charging facilities. Together, these elements facilitate comprehensive flight testing and lay the foundation for the AAM industry’s growth in the UAE and globally.
“Since announcing the AAM Integrated Centre in Dubai, we have witnessed significant interest from UAE-based companies. Having the land to commence construction next year sets us apart in the industry, making us the sole company actively engaged in the certification process.
“The UAE’s regulatory support enables us to pursue this rigorous certification process, covering various aspects such as ground handling, fire safety protocols, staffing requirements, and our relationship with eVTOL manufacturers.”
Q: With ongoing developments in NEOM and partnerships with eVTOL OEMs like Lilium and Volocopter, Saudi Arabia appears to hold immense potential for Advanced Air Mobility. Could you share your insights on this?
FC: “NEOM has issued a Request for Proposals to deploy their own network of vertiports, seeking precisely what we’ve successfully implemented in Montreal. We initially developed a vertiport testbed in Mirabel and subsequently added integrated centers and MROs, ensuring aircraft readiness and maintenance.
“As an industry, we must consider the holistic package. VPorts is also establishing another MRO center in Quebec City, focusing on supporting northern regions and indigenous communities with varying needs and weather conditions. In North America, healthcare-related use cases are prominent in Montreal, given its concentration of hospitals and research centres, while cargo operations in Quebec are vital for community connectivity.
“Advanced Air Mobility will enhance cost-effectiveness and efficiency in this context. Altogether, we anticipate a significant economic impact, with network developments estimated to reach $5 billion by 2045, compared to the entire current aviation industry’s value of $1.5 billion.”
Q: What can we expect in terms of your company’s future endeavors and expansion into other countries?
FC: “Our roadmap at VPorts remains robust, with upcoming announcements regarding expansion into other countries in the months ahead. We are progressing from conceptual images and renderings to actual physical structures representing the essential facilities required for eVTOL aircraft services in cities worldwide.
“We’re engaging with elected officials and urban planners, outlining our projects’ significance, their social and economic impact, and their integration into larger networks. Our goal is to serve as an enabler, fostering collaboration and building ecosystems wherever we venture.”