VPorts to create international advanced air mobility corridor

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Canadian advanced air mobility (AAM) startup VPorts has announced it is to create an electric AAM corridor between Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) in New York and a vertiport in Canada.

This corridor is intended to support the establishment of an AAM ecosystem that will provide a platform for full commercial cargo transportation operations using electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft (large, helicopter-sized drones). The first eVTOL aircraft test flights are planned for 2023.

A consortium of international organizations including VPorts, Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR), Syracuse Hancock International Airport, Aéro Montréal, Innovitech, the Unmanned Aerial System Centre of Excellence (Alma) and Helijet International, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish international electric AAM corridors between Québec (Canada) and the USA.

New York State will provide NUAIR with an additional US$21m in funding from the ‘Central New York Rising’ Upstate Revitalization Initiative. This will enable the organization to continue cultivating uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) and AAM industry hubs in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley. The additional funding will also mean critical infrastructure can be tested and deployed to enable advanced industry applications, state agency adoption of UAS, AAM development, and associated workforce development.

A study by Nexa Capital estimates that the full expansion of UAS and AAM-related industries to Central New York could create over 8,100 full-time jobs by 2040, while incrementally generating over US$1.3bn in direct, indirect and induced economic benefits. This includes the direct effects of investment of up to US$130m in the region.

Jason Terreri, executive director of the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority (SRAA), said, “SRAA, the operator of Syracuse Hancock International Airport, is proud to take part in the creation of an international electric AAM corridor. This undertaking, which will sustainably connect communities in Upstate New York and beyond, firmly aligns with the SRAA’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the electrification of transportation-related technology at SYR. SYR is one of the first airports in the US to include UAS/AAM infrastructure planning as part of its Master Plan.”

Ken Stewart, CEO of NUAIR, said, “There are currently over 5,000 underutilized regional airports throughout the US. The development of this international AAM corridor between Syracuse, New York, and Montreal will help lay the foundation for regional air mobility (RAM) operations for those underutilized airports, assisting with cargo deliveries and strengthening United States supply chains. NUAIR will build on the foundation of its 50-mile UAS Corridor, and UAS traffic management (UTM) systems and our work with NASA on Vertiport Automation Systems to integrate this next generation aircraft into America’s National Airspace System.”

Dr Fethi Chebil, president and founder of VPorts, added, “The aim of the corridors is to build an AAM ecosystem that will provide a platform for full commercial cargo transport operations using eVTOLs. They will allow the consortium’s members to explore all aspects of AAM, including goods transportation, charging readiness, stakeholder management, business cases, security and safety protocols, social acceptability and urban integration of infrastructure and operations. Many companies and organizations rapidly investing in these related new capabilities are present in Central New York State today with good prospects of growth, and others are likely to be attracted to the region.”

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