Ferrovial Vertiports CEO Calls For Focus On AAM Ecosystem
The CEO of Ferrovial Vertiports has called for an industry-wide pivot to focus on building out an ecosystem of infrastructure and services to accommodate the expected arrival of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles by the middle of the decade.
“I do think, generally speaking, that Wall Street has spent an inordinate amount of time focused on eVTOLs and all the cool, transformative benefits that will be derived from this form of transportation,” Ferrovial Vertiports CEO Kevin Cox tells the AAM Report. “I wouldn’t say we’re falling behind, but we definitely need to start shifting the focus more toward the ecosystem that will enable this new technology.”
Cox says there is a lot of investment money available to finance vertiport projects, but the challenge will be finding the right balance on timing construction to coincide with aircraft certification targets. Given that leading eVTOL startups are currently projecting certification in 2025, Cox says now is the time for vertiport sites to be identified and capital deployed in support of future networks.
"Those who sit too long on the sidelines will miss opportunities, which is why Ferrovial is committed to having infrastructure ready for those first flights," Cox says. "Over time, as more players receive certification and scale, a robust series of networks can and will be developed, and we are positioning ourselves as the vertiport operator of choice now and in the future."
“As an infrastructure provider, you don’t want to go out and build a bunch of infrastructure and then have it sitting there idle for two or three years,” Cox says. “The flip side is, you don’t want to wait for certification and then there’s a bunch of aircraft sitting around waiting for the infrastructure. So, there needs to be that ongoing balance to figure out where that opportune time is.”
As Ferrovial works to plan its future vertiport networks, the company is in conversations under various nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) with “seven or eight” commercial airlines and operators and “north of 20” OEMs that have all expressed interest in collaboratively building out its vehicle-agnostic vertiport networks, Cox says. The company is initially focused on the “thickest” markets first, including urban and high-population areas in Florida, the Northeastern U.S., Europe and the U.K.
“We’ve heard some competitors talk about starting in remote areas, and we believe that is not the recipe for success,” Cox says. “The recipe for success is to build, construct and operate these vertiports working hand in glove with the local communities so we can put them in the places where people most want to go. That, by necessity, means they tend to be in higher-population areas.”
Key to Ferrovial’s vertiport network planning process is its proprietary demand model that draws from cellphone data to map out frequently traveled routes; identify reasons for travel and potential time savings; and plug that data into a predictive model that allows the company to project the number of travelers who may be candidates for eVTOL ridership.
The company is mainly focusing on three primary use cases for its vertiport networks, Cox says. They are intracity short-hop flights of less than 25 mi.; city-to-city connections in the 50-70 mi. range; and flights connecting airports to downtown urban centers.
As for the vertiports themselves, Cox says that Ferrovial is capable of constructing a “very quick, fast and small” facility on just a single acre of land, which would probably have just one final approach and takeoff area (FATO) and “two or three” vehicle stands. The largest vertiports the company would probably build, by contrast, would be on two or three acres and include two independent FATOs and six to eight vehicle stands.
But the specifics of the vertiports continue to evolve. “We’re probably now in our second or third generation of development,” Cox says. “There are various aspects at play: the airfield piece, the terminal piece, the landside piece, the digitalization. We will continue, in my opinion, to evolve as we strive for that perfect marriage between the infrastructure, the passenger experience and the technology.”