Progression to eVTOL flight demonstrations at the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics

By Alex Scerri | November 11, 2022

Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 43 seconds.

With the inauguration of the Skyports vertiport terminal in Pontoise-Cormeilles-en-Vexin on November 10, Paris continues its steady progress towards the showcase flights of urban air mobility (UAM) planned for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024.

Skyport Volocopter
With the inauguration of the Skyports vertiport in Paris, the city is progressing towards its eVTOL flights planned for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024. Groupe ADP / Volocopter Image

This was the third event this year, after the noise measurement campaign in March and the UTM integration tests in September.

In his comments before the groundbreaking ceremony, Duncan Walker, founder and CEO of Skyports, said discussions around the UAM launch had been going on for five years and many were skeptical. But, a first in Europe, this inauguration brings the industry closer to public commercial operations.

Walker congratulated Groupe ADP for its investment and commitment to the project, and thanked its team and all the other partners.

While visible demonstration is important, many underlying technologies are required to enable a safe, secure and seamless passenger experience. It was the first time Skyports had integrated these systems with those of an operator – in this case, Volocopter’s VoloIQ.

Skyport Volocopter
From left to right Damien Cazé, Director General of the DGAC, Benoit Jimenez, who represented the management of the Île-de-France Region, and Duncan Walker, founder and CEO of Skyports, during the inauguration ceremony of the vertiport terminal in Pontoise-Cormeilles-en-Vexin on 10 November. Alex ScerriImage

In addition to the passenger experience, the upcoming test program will test flight procedures, such as aborted takeoffs, aborted landings and other contingencies.

Walker insisted that building the physical terminals and flying real aircraft was the best way to thoroughly test operational scenarios before commercial launch.

Dirk Hoke, CEO of Volocopter, said many stakeholders expect the UAM to launch around 2030. stakeholders.

Damien Cazé, Director General of the DGAC (General Directorate of Civil Aviation), noted the work accomplished in just one year since the launch of the Pontoise sandbox.

Skyport Volocopter
The Skyports vertiport terminal is considered a working and living prototype that will be used to test all end-to-end processes in an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) flight. ADP Group / Volocopter Image

He said the authority’s mandate is also to protect the general public – not just the providers and users of the service. Lower noise levels and clean power sources used by UAM aircraft are important to achieving these promised environmental goals, he said.

Coincidentally, comments from Groupe ADP CEO Augustin de Romanet were partially drowned out by a Robinson R44 landing just outside the hangar. He humorously said that the noisy helicopter interruption is one of the goals behind the sandbox.

After the inauguration, Benoit Jimenez, representing the management of the Ile-de-France Region, declared Vertical that the regional council strongly supports the project. The council believes that UAM will be a stimulating catalyst to further connect business and leisure nodes across the Paris conurbation and the rest of the region.

Vertiport terminal design

Alex McCord, head of vertiport development at Skyports, said the vertiport terminal on display can be seen as a working, living prototype that will be used to test all end-to-end processes.

Skyport Volocopter
Passengers can walk through the boarding gate at Skyports vertiport terminal using QR codes, which are readily available and inexpensive to use. There is also the possibility of using RFID technology. Alex ScerriImage

One of the goals is to have a smooth passenger flow by minimizing touch points. This is also the time to discreetly weigh passengers and their luggage, essential information for flight planning and load and balance calculations.

McCord said the group is aware that different jurisdictions will have different requirements. As such, the design of the vertiport is modular to allow for security checks, passport control, etc., for possible cross-border flights.

Access control can be achieved using QR codes, which are readily available and inexpensive to use. It is also possible to use RFID technology which could further speed up the process.

McCord also noted that the vertiport is designed with accessibility in mind when dealing with passengers with limited mobility. Skyports wants to ensure that the service is available to everyone on the vertiport side, with the only limiting factor being the capacity of the aircraft.

The vertiport aims to be independent of aircraft. For example, Volocopter, which participated in the event with a crewed flight of its 2X prototype piloted by Paul Stone, as well as the VoloCity mock-up, will need battery storage capacity to facilitate its concept of swapping battery. Other aircraft may require high power direct load capabilities.

Regarding the question of whether flight testing would include the barrier-free volume concept, as described by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), McCord said that wherever possible , the group will try to use slope values, as in the final approach and the helicopter grip. offs (FATO) barrier-free surfaces, to provide additional flexibility. But the unobstructed volume would open up the possibilities of close-up applications in urban environments, provided the aircraft’s performance allows it.

Locations of the Paris 2024 vertiport

In addition to the previously revealed locations of Le Bourget Airport, Issy-les-Moulineaux (the current heliport in downtown Paris) and Saint-Cyr (near the Palace of Versailles), a new urban vertiport will be built next to Gare d’Austerlitz at the southeast end. downtown.

Renders shown at the event indicate that it will be a floating vertiport on the left bank of the Seine. Although this appears to be within the P23 prohibited area over Paris down to 6,500 feet (1,980 meters), the area is connected by an existing visual flight rules (VFR) helicopter route which serves a local hospital.

Tenders for the construction of this and other vertiport infrastructure are expected to be launched in the first quarter of 2023.

Volocopter VoloIQ and operations center

Paalo Dewitz, principal owner of the VoloIQ e-commerce platform and Volocopter apps, introduced the booking app, which uses facial recognition technology to facilitate airport check-ins.

The user would upload an image of themselves before the flight, which would then be verified by a facial scan at check-in. Whether it will be an on-demand system or a scheduled system is yet to be determined, with the company hinting that it could be a mix of the two.

Skyport Volocopter
The Volocopter Control Center displays Safe Flight and Landing (CSFL) in blue triangles on the main map display. Alex ScerriImage

Florian Müller, ecosystem and digital platform manager at Volocopter, said the operations center collects data from various sources, such as crew planning, battery planning to support the concept. swapping batteries, weather, bird hazards and other flight information that can be graphically overlaid on a map.

An interesting feature was the representation of landing locations to support Continuing Safe Flight and Landing (CSFL), compared to VTOL-capable aircraft certified to the EASA Category Enhanced Specification.

The system constantly monitors the state of charge and the health of the battery, as well as the technical condition of the aircraft, to ensure that the destination or one of the alternative locations can be reached at any time during the flight. .

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