Australian air taxi infrastructure company Skyportz is moving to secure use of prime urban real estate for future electric takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOL) air taxi operation by – somewhat like the fast-moving homophonic UK drone group Skyports – working with large parking lot businesses to serve as heliports.
In contrast to the diversified UK drone delivery and eVTOL infrastructure company Skyports, Melbourne-based Skyportz has thus far focused mostly on setting the vertiport table for the launch of air taxi services sometime towards the mid-2020s. In doing that, it has quietly and steadily been striking deals with the owners of major parking facilities in Australian cities for their future use as air taxi hubs. Most recently, it signed an agreement with Japan-owned Secure Parking, whose multi-story urban garages add an addition 400 potential eVTOL structures to the hundreds of others Skyportz has obtained options for.
That determined yet gradual approach to securing parking facilities for use as eVTOL air taxi veliports also contrasts how UK’s Skyports has pursued a similar objective. Last November, the London-based company engineered an abrupt Big Bang deal with LAZ Parking, which operates garages in 3,350 locations across the US. Under that agreement, Skyports will develop air taxi vertiports at LAZ Parking sites across Southern California, before broadening the activity to other US cities.
Skyportz, by contrast, has steadily established partnerships with a variety of parking companies across Australia, as well as garage operators at heliports and airports keen to welcome nearing air taxi services.
“Car park rooftops are ideal because they are built to support the weight of cars, are easily accessible and are in locations that people want to go to,” Skyportz founder Clem Newton-Brown told The Australian Financial Review this week. “We want to be the front-runner in 2024 or 2025 when the first commercial aircraft is approved, and be in a position to attract these companies to Australia.”
A former politician in the state of Victoria, Newton-Brown founded the company in 2018 and continued building it on his conviction that eVTOL craft and air taxi services will not only arrive faster than most people realize, but will revolutionize urban transport when they do. But for that to happen, he says, all parts of that next generation advanced air mobility system must be in place ahead of time – not least of which being centrally-located, well-equipped urban veliports.
“Our role is very clear. It’s what we see as the missing piece in the puzzle: the landing infrastructure,” Newton-Brown said. “There is no point in having these incredible aircraft developed if they can’t actually be landed in places that are useful.”
The company is mostly focused on the repurposing of structures for vertiport use, though has committed to building entirely new infrastructure like the electric transport hub planned for Brisbane’s 2032 Olympics.
Of late, Skyportz has also sought to ensure the vehicle side of that activity will be ready to fly as soon as possible. Last October, it agreed to buy up to 100 hybrid eVTOL craft from US company Electra Aero for air taxi service in Australia. It’s unclear whether the company plans to operate flights itself – and thus take another diversification step closer to Skyport’s mix of aerial activities – or lease them to stand-alone specialists.
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