Second air-taxi company enters SEQ market targeting Olympic sky rush

Second air-taxi company enters SEQ market targeting Olympic sky rush

Second air-taxi company enters SEQ market targeting Olympic sky rush

26 August, 2022

South-east Queensland now has one company hoping to build the landing infrastructure for air taxis and a second hoping to provide self-flying vehicles before the 2032 Olympic Games.

Skyportz announced its landing infrastructure plans last October as it looked for headquarters in Petrie.

Now US aerospace manufacturer Wisk wants a base in Greater Brisbane, and has signed a memorandum of understanding with the body that represents all south-east Queensland mayors.

Wisk builds self-flying drone-style electric taxis, which take off and land vertically.

The memorandum of understanding was made public in the United States on June 8, but was presented to the Queensland public on Thursday by Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner.

Wisk hopes to have a network of “vertiports” around Greater Brisbane by 2032. There, customers will step into a large drone guided by a pilot from a series of ground-based control rooms.

“What we see behind us is the future of flight,” Schrinner said of the yellow, 13-prop Wisk air taxi parked in King George Square.

“Behind us is a prototype that has flown almost 1600 test flights already with Wisk Aircraft.

“It is a fully autonomous air taxi. It is under testing in the United States and is soon to begin testing in Australia.”

Skyportz’ Clem Newton-Brown, who chairs a future aviation industry committee, believes “piloted” air taxis will enter the market before autonomous air taxis such as Wisk’s become the standard.

“Eventually, the fully autonomous aircraft such as Wisk’s will dominate, but there is some way to go before we get to that point,” he said.

“The first electric air taxis the community will be able to use will be piloted. We are already seeing electric aircraft such as Beta successfully operating with a pilot on board – last month they completed a 1400-mile [2250-kilometre] trip across the USA.”

Newton-Brown said Skyportz was also working with Queensland mayors.

“We are also working with the Council of Mayors and several aviation consultants to assess what routes would best serve the community,” he said.

“The south-east Queensland region would be a great launch market for air taxis, as long as all levels of government work together to make it happen.”

Last December the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority set up guidelines for air-taxi trials in Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.

Wisk’s regional director, Catherine MacGowan, said south-east Queensland’s rapid population growth “opened up a huge range of opportunities”.

“This new industry will need new skill sets, new training systems, new types of infrastructure, new processes and new IT systems,” she said.

But she said there was “still some time to go” before passengers would be flying in the aircraft.

“We are working with regulators around the world. We are working with CASA – the Civil Aviation Safety Authority – here in Australia about what will be the steps and processes we need in place to carry passengers.”