VPorts, a Canadian advanced air mobility (AAM) start-up with plans to build a vertiport network in Québec, has announced what the company says will be the first-ever international AAM corridor for electric aircraft. The company plans to launch an eVTOL flight route between the existing Helico heliport in Mirabel, near Montreal, and Syracuse Hancock International Airport (KSYR) in Syracuse, New York.
While the cross-border route will initially be used to transport commercial cargo between the U.S. and Canada, VPorts says that eventually, people will also be able to travel the route using eVTOL air taxis. VPorts has not specified exactly which eVTOL models will be the first to fly along this route, but the company plans to begin flight trials in 2023. It says its facilities will be open to all operators and makes of aircraft.
Several eVTOL air taxi developers are expecting to have their aircraft FAA-certified in 2024, with operations beginning in 2025. However, none of the eVTOL models currently in development have sufficient range to fly the 200 miles between Mirabel and Syracuse.
VPorts president and founder Fethi Chebil told FutureFlight it is in discussion with an undisclosed company that is developing an eSTOL aircraft able to fly significantly further while requiring only a short landing space. He also explained that the company is considering adding some landing sites between Mirabel and Syracuse to be used as interim recharging points by eVTOL aircraft. These sites might include Rome Airport in New York.
The new vertiport route announcement comes just a few months after VPorts and a consortium of international organizations signed a memorandum of understanding to establish multiple, first-of-their-kind international electric AAM corridors between Canada and the U.S. Members of that consortium include the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR), Aéro Montréal, Syracuse Hancock International Airport, Innovitech, the Unmanned Aerial System Center of Excellence (Alma), and Helijet International.
“The aim of the corridors is to build an AAM ecosystem that will provide a platform for full commercial cargo transport operations using eVTOLs,” said Chebil. “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,” Chebil added.
By 2030, VPorts plans to develop a network of vertiports across the province of Quebec. Other locations in this network could include St-Hubert Airport, Quebec City, Ottawa-Gatineau, Sherbrooke, Drummondville, Mont-Tremblant, Trois-Rivières, Ste-Marie de Beauce and Rivière-du-Loup. The company, which was founded in 2021, plans to launched a $20 million funding round early in 2023.
In August 2022, VPorts announced plans to build and operate a vertiport in the business aviation enclave of São Paulo International Airport in Brazil. This facility is expected to open by the end of 2023 and will initially be used by existing helicopters before transitioning to eVTOL air services. The company also has ambitions to expand its network in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
In October, New York state governor Kathy Hochul announced that NUAIR will receive $21 million in state funding via the Central New York Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative. That funding will help NUAIR test and deploy critical infrastructure for AAM operations, such as vertiports, and to develop the workforce needed to support the growing AAM industry in central New York state. According to VPorts, which cited a recent study by Nexa Capital, the industry could create more than 8,100 full-time jobs in the region by 2040.
“There are currently over 5,000 underutilized regional airports throughout the United States. 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,” said NUAIR CEO Ken Stewart. “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.”
This story was updated on December 1 to include further information about VPorts' plans.