VPorts To Build First Vertiport At UAE’s Ras Al Khaimah Airport
Advanced air mobility (AAM) infrastructure company VPorts has signed an agreement with Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Airport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to build and operate the first vertiport complex in the emirate, part of the company’s vision to build out a world-class vertiport network in the UAE.
Upon completion, the vertiport hub is intended to connect RAK to Dubai via a dedicated AAM corridor, which would enhance the flow of people, goods and tourism between the emirates, according to Fetih Chebil, CEO of VPorts. The project will include multiple takeoff-and-landing slots to accommodate electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) vehicles, Chebil says.
The corridor between RAK and Dubai is significant because Dubai is the location of VPorts’ planned AAM Integrator World Center, which is intended to serve as a testing ground and collaboration zone for OEMs, infrastructure companies and air traffic management platforms to explore AAM technologies.
“Within AAM we have three pillars: the eVTOLs, the infrastructure and the air traffic management integration, but right now these efforts are mostly all siloed off from each other,” Chebil tells the AAM Report. “The idea behind our integrator center is to bring these players together in one place where they can flight test vehicles alongside other stakeholders from this ecosystem.”
VPorts has signed agreements with OEMs like Electra.aero and SkyDrive, as well as with local charter operator Falcon Aviation, that will grant the companies special access to the dedicated airspace and testing facilities housed at the integrator center. “These will basically work like lease agreements where they will be using our integrator center to do their flight testing, but they will not be exclusive; the integrator will be open to anybody,” Chebil says.
As part of the integrator center, VPorts will also deploy its Vertiport Operation Control Center (VOCC) solution, which is being designed to manage air traffic integration and establish communication links between operators, vertiports and air navigation service providers, much like the control center at an airport would, according to Chebil, who adds the center will be highly automated.
“Everything will be digital at the control center,” Chebil says. “There’s a digital twin of the airspace that will show where the eVTOLs are flying and give information about the location and all data related to the flight so you can fly quickly, safely and easily.”
Chebil says VPorts is currently working with the UAE’s air navigation service provider to sort out issues related to the integrator center’s dedicated airspace for flight testing and operations, before launching into the vertiport design and certification process. Construction is expected to begin in 2023, with first flight tests anticipated for 2024.
Outside the UAE, VPorts is targeting locations in the U.S., Canada and Sao Paulo for its initial vertiport networks, with plans to explore India and East Africa for future networks, Chebil says. The company is also establishing a dedicated corridor for AAM flights between Syracuse, New York, and Mirabel, Quebec, which Chebil highlights as the first international corridor dedicated exclusively to AAM services.
VPorts has previously announced plans to build out a network of 1,500 vertiports around the world by 2030, although they would often consist of single vehicle takeoff-and-landing slots, with larger complexes and networks consisting of numerous smaller vertiports that act like individual nodes within a larger system of vertiports. For example, the integrator center will house as many as 50 separate vehicle slots, Chebil says.
“In just one city, we can have over 1,000 vertiports because we will have different vehicle stands in different areas,” he says. “We shouldn’t think of these as airports; our definition is just a slot from which a vehicle can take off and land.”