The French AirNova startup has ambitious plans for lifting the nation’s ground transportation into the skies with emerging electric takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOL), and is currently looking to raise funds for its project to build a network of multi-purpose vertiports across France.
The Bordeaux-based company is focused on achievable goals it believes will help it work toward its broader, nation-spanning ambitions. To that end, in October AirNova announced its campaign to raise $3.2 million for business development – a seemingly modest sum in a wider eVTOL sector attracting billions in investment at a time, but sufficient for the startup to rev up its vertiport plans.
Those involve building a series of elevated aerial facilities based on its patented design, and make those available to a variety of operators, including air taxis, cargo transport, last-mile delivery drones, and craft used by medical and emergency services. Ground level variations are also feasible where environments require it.
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Several established and considerably larger groups are already at work creating that kind of infrastructure, including Skyports, Volocopter’s ground services unit, and even the Urban Blue company backed by a collective of airport operators in Italy and southern France. But AirNova CEO Laurent Mathionlon believes the particular experience of his small team, and their intimate knowledge of French urban, social, and business workings give them the assets to punch far above their weight – and carve out a solid foothold in emerging air transport services.
AirNova is currently doing studies on about 10 vertiport test sites, and is developing its proprietary design concept to fully meet the needs of eVTOL manufacturers. The model is based on an elevated structure whose lower floors will be used for travel functions – reception, check-in, waiting areas, etc. – and whose roof is outfitted with two landing pads and a pair of recharging and maintenance spots.
While that may not be radically different from the approach other vertiport companies are taking in developing eVTOL infrastructure, AirNova is already thinking well beyond individual or single-city strategies, and envisioning a nation-wide network built from region-conntecting installations.
In addition to inner-urban goods and passenger transport covering distances of 10 to 30 km, AirNova vertiports aim to create links between more remote cities and regions with eVTOL flights of 50 to 300 km. As often the case with similar projects, AirNova terminals will serve as hubs to surrounding ground transport, including buses, subways, and commuter trains.
“Our objective is to propose new use values through innovative development… for the benefit of our customers who will operate on-site,” explains Mathiolon, a veteran in French real estate management who in recent years has been specializing in eVTOL opportunities in the field. “For over three years I’ve been working on a new form of air mobility, using our patented AirNova design to develop vertiport infrastructure in France, then in Europe, for drone transport of both goods and people.”
Will it work with so many larger competitors already in full stride? AirNova believes so, and continues recruiting business angels, institutional investors, and perhaps even – who knows? – eVTOL craft makers like Toulouse-based Airbus.
Read: UAM partnership to promote Airbus eVTOL air taxis in Italy
Meanwhile, opportunities remain fairly promising for forward-thinking companies in France, where infrastructure construction for next-generation aircraft isn’t exactly ahead of the curve, despite the nation being expected to host the world’s first air taxi services during the Paris 2024 Olympics.