A group of companies that includes Volocopter, Skyports, and airport operator Groupe ADP have inaugurated what they say is Europe’s first fully integrated vertiport, created for testing all aspects of air taxi operation expected to be introduced during the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.
The testbed facility was opened Thursday at a dedicated site in the Paris suburb of Pontoise. The vertiport features a 115-square-meter terminal built by Skyports and Groupe ADP to trial all stages of passenger arrival, checking, boarding, and takeoff, and was christened with a demonstration flight of a Volocopter air taxi prototype. The occasion also allowed participants – which include an expanding roster of sector businesses, as well as French administrative and government agencies – to reveal the first fixed flight paths that will be operated.
The event was the fruit of 12 months of work preparing the facility, which will also draw from insights gained during recurring research, next-generation aircraft flights, and various systems testing at the nearby Cergy-Pontoise airfield.
In addition to the Skyports-Groupe ADP passenger terminal, the new Pontoise vertiport is equipped with air taxi takeoff and landing pads, a maintenance hangar, and control areas. It was conceived to permit trials of aerial services approximating those planned for 2024, including biometric tech that will permit travelers to check in, clear identification controls, and access waiting spaces.
“In Pontoise, we are taking a new decisive step in the development of electric air mobility,” said Groupe ADP CEO Augustin de Romanet. “The passenger terminal marks the final stage in the development of the Pontoise testbed, and the completion of a Volocopter flight fully integrated into the airfield’s airspace is the epitome of a year of very ambitious test campaigns. We are now looking ahead to 2024.”
Announcement of initial routes to be flown made the approaching launch of air taxi flights seem all the more imminent.
A 21-kilometer parcourse will link vertiports at the Saint-Cyr l’École airfield in Versailles and the Issy-les-Moulineaux heliport in southwest Paris. A 22-kilometer path between Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Le Bourget airports to the north of the capital will connect new vertiport spaces at the Quai Austerlitz near the Seine.
Regular commercial air taxi flights between those Skyports-Groupe ADP vertiports will be operated by Volocopter craft – thus far the only electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles authorized by French regulators for use in the Pontoise project.
In addition to preparing for passenger service, those early rotations will test emergency and medical uses, including transport of biological material, injured people, or specialist physicians urgently needed at one of the Paris region hospitals.
When up and running, that program will rely on a fleet of roughly 10 VoloCity air taxis performing two to three flights each hour.
“The development of low-altitude aviation for urban air mobility is an adventure full of promises – for employment, for the environment, and for the lives of Paris Region residents,” said Valérie Pécresse, president of the Paris region government, anticipating air taxi debut during the Paris 2024 Summer Games. “The Olympics are an incredible opportunity to showcase and launch this project and promote the site’s experimental facilities. We will continue to support this project while remaining vigilant to ensure that the inhabitants of Paris Region benefit from it, in compliance with our decarbonization objectives, as detailed in the regional economic strategy Impact 2028.”