Australia has the “magic sauce” when it comes to advanced air mobility (AAM), namely an enabling environment and a commercial environment, Wisk Aero Asia-Pacific regional director Catherine MacGowan told delegates at the AAM Summit in Melbourne, Australia, this week.
Wisk recently displayed its fifth-generation Cora electric, self-flying air vehicle in the Brisbane central business district as it launches community engagement activities in the country in a bid to launch some form of operations at the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Early engagement from the country’s regulators and support for operational tests and demonstrations, as well as long-term sustainability for an AAM business, all provide Australia with an advantage when it comes to establishing AAM, says MacGowan.
In terms of the enabling environment, Australia has an innovative and connected aerospace community, a forward-looking and collaborative regulator, airspace innovation, a clear interest and a future-focused, optimistic perspective with the ability to imagine a different future, says MacGowan.
Wisk has a range of business cases for operations in the country, including connecting regional communities with medical and educational resources. It has already started regulatory and community engagement, with AAM operations both “very close and very far away”.
Wisk plans to reveal its sixth-generation all-electric, self-flying vehicle in October. Unlike earlier versions, it will have the capacity for four passengers. Wisk has been flying and developing its eVTOL since 2010, with 1,550-plus test flights conducted in both the United States and New Zealand. “The aircraft isn’t the bit that concerns us most,” says MacGowan, rather the “whole ecosystem which brings this to life”.
Wisk isn’t alone in its desire to establish in Australia, with Eve Air Mobility already holding letters of intent with four Australian companies – Aviair/Helispirit, Microflite, Nautilus Aviation and Sydney Sea Plane – for up to 150 aircraft. Eve currently has more than 2,060 orders and LoIs, says Rob Weaver, regulation and public policy global lead at Eve Air Mobility.
The company sees the potential for a lot of different user cases in Australia, but Weaver warns the country needs to capitalize on the early work resolving AAM issues as otherwise it is in danger of missing out on early aircraft deliveries and operations.
Beta Technologies, meanwhile has identified a strong business case for AAM in Australia, particularly in the medical space, says Patrick Buckles, chief revenue officer. Beta’s ALIA vehicle’s 600kg payload capacity, five-passenger and a pilot capacity, rapid recharge in less than an hour and 460km range make it ideal for cargo, passenger, medical and defence missions, according to Buckles.
Beta is engaging with government agencies in Australia and working with local company Skyportz on infrastructure developments, with Buckles anticipating in the next two years a proof-of-concept trial in the country.
Meanwhile, homegrown eVTOL designer and developer AMSL Aero expects to launch the flight test program for a full-scale prototype of its Vertiia vehicle late this year in “regional Australia”, says co-founder and CEO Andrew Moore. Sub-scale prototypes have been flying for five years. Vertiia has been specifically designed for the Australian market and its long-range requirements, with an all-electric version to have a range of 250km and a subsequent hydrogen-powered version to provide a 1,000km range with an initial speed of 300km/hour.
“Australia is a big country so from the outset we designed it with a focus on long-range,” says Moore.
The Vertiia will have a five-seat passenger configuration; a 500kg capacity in cargo configuration; and space for a patient and three crew for medical missions. AMSL already has “multiple contracts” with the Australian Department of Defence, in addition to a development partnership with aeromedical operator CareFlight. “We still have lots of work ahead of us, but we are very proud to be Australian-designed, Australian-built, Australian-tested for Australian conditions,” says Moore.
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