Italy Inaugurates First Vertiport With eVTOL Test Flight
The first crewed electric vertical takeoff and landing flight in Italian airspace has been conducted from the country’s first fully functional vertiport at Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport.
The 5-min. flight by Volocopter’s 2X prototype on Oct. 6 is a key step toward the planned launch of advanced air mobility (AAM) services in Rome by the end of 2024.
The public test flight and vertiport demonstration was conducted in partnership with airport operator Aeroporti de Roma (ADR), infrastructure company Atlantia and UrbanV, a company established by ADR with the operators of the Bologna, Venice and Nice airports to develop vertiports internationally.
The partners aim to launch service between Fiumicino and the city center in time for the Catholic Jubilee in 2025. Rome is one of several regions worldwide using major events as an anchor for the launch of AAM services. Paris is targeting flights at the 2024 Olympics.
The test vertiports in Paris and Rome are among several efforts getting underway to demonstrate AAM infrastructure and operations and engage regulators, policymakers and the public to promote acceptance of the new form of transportation.
The infrastructure at Fiumicino was developed in compliance with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) prototype specification for the design of vertiports for electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) operations. The 5,500 m2 (60,000 ft.2) facility includes a final approach and takeoff area for eVTOL flights, a parking area, covered hangar, charging area, warehouse and office.
Located within a regulatory sandbox approved by Italian aviation regulator ENAC, the vertiport is sized to accommodate the main eVTOL types under development. The facility is designed to host various types of flight and ground tests, including aircraft turnaround with different types of eVTOL charging including battery swaps and fast charging. Volcopter’s VoloIQ platform provides the digital backbone.
“Opening of the first vertiport in Italy and flying the first crewed eVTOL represent a remarkable step toward the activation of the first AAM routes between Fiumicino Airport and Rome city center by the end of 2024, ahead of the Jubilee,” ADR CEO Marco Troncone says in a statement.
“This test vertiport is particularly significant for UrbanV, representing our first step toward establishing a network of vertiports in the Rome region,” UrbanV CEO Carlo Tursi says. “We are making progress toward positioning Rome as one of the first European cities to offer seamless connections with electric aircraft.”
UrbanV is entering a market so far dominated by startups such as UK-based Skyports, which has built the vertiport testbed at the Paris region’s AAM test site at Pontoise-Cormeilles aerodrome on the outskirts of the city. The Pontoise vertiport will be formally inaugurated in November. Skyports is also working under a UK government-funded project to develop a vertiport at a London general aviation airport.
Separately, Skyports and U.S. eVTOL developer Joby Aviation have announced that they are developing a “Living Lab” passenger terminal to test technologies and procedures that will help define the passenger experience for AAM services. Over the next 18 months, the Living Lab will be showcased to industry and publications at locations across the U.S.
“The Living Lab will allow us to rethink the terminal experience,” Skyports CEO Duncan Walker says, adding that the company’s goal is to develop a vertiport infrastructure that delivers a “zero-wait” check-in experience. “We expect the Living Lab to be instrumental in our efforts to engage regulators, government officials and the public to demonstrate the benefits of [eVTOL] operations.”