In an interview with Skyports’ new Head of Asia-Pacific, Yun-yuan Tay, we ask him about the adoption of Advanced Aerial Mobility in Singapore, what next for Skyports in Asia and some of the challenges he foresees to the adoption of AAM in the region.
From your observation, how far ahead is Asia with the adoption of Advanced Aerial Mobility (AAM) relative to other regions?
We believe that Asia is at the forefront of AAM adoption with Singapore leading the way. In 2019, Skyports and Volocopter showcased the first-full scale passenger air taxi vertiport prototype – the VoloPort – in Singapore, with the Volocopter completing its first manned flight in the city state over the Marina Bay area. Our joint goal is to commence initial commercial operations by 2022-2023. Many other Asian countries have also expressed enthusiasm for adopting of AAM. For example, in 2018 Japan released their Air Mobility Revolution Roadmap to commence commercial service in 2023, while South Korea has publicly announced in their version of the roadmap its intention to enable the first commercial operations by 2025.
Why did Skyports choose Singapore as one of the first target markets in Asia in which to set up a vertiport network?
When we evaluate potential markets for AAM, we typically look for the presence of a leading vehicle manufacturer and operator, a favourable regulatory environment and a provider of take-off and landing infrastructure. We chose Singapore because we could help deliver on of those three key components.
The Singapore government is very proactive in building a smart and connected nation, with a coordinated approach around AAM between the various government agencies and, of course, the German air taxi pioneer, Volocopter. We believe that Singapore will continue to lead the development of AAM implementation in the region and will be the gateway for us to launch operations in other parts of Asia and globally as well.
What are some challenges you foresee to the adoption of AAM in Asia?
There are three major hurdles to overcome for the AAM industry to take off – vehicle technology, public acceptance, and infrastructure provision.
Significant effort, time and capital is being invested into vehicle technology and there is no doubt we will have the first certified vehicle in due time. The industry will need to need to be sensitive to public concerns about new technology and we will work closely with the regulators to guarantee passenger safety and security. Infrastructure has not received as much attention as the vehicles. We need safe, secure and efficient vertiports to move people and cargo; without them, air taxis will never take off – literally.
Infrastructure delivery poses many challenges such as securing sites in strategic locations, ensuring adequate services for vehicle operations, such as electric grid capacity and passenger access) and jointly setting regulatory requirements with the authorities. What this all means is that there will be long lead times for vertiport infrastructure to be in place, which is why we are laser focused on continuing the progress we have made to date on infrastructure development to meet the target launch timeline of the mid-2020s.
What is next for Skyports in Asia?
Since we built the world’s first proof-of-concept passenger air taxi vertiport in Singapore last year, we have been working to develop vertiport networks in a number of important markets worldwide. The showcase in Singapore was very important for us as it allowed us to test vertiport technical operations, engage with the regulatory bodies and raise public awareness. We are currently constructing and testing the next iteration of our vertiport, Skyport.1, and expect to complete the process by 2022-2023 to support the first commercial operations.
How are Skyports affected by COVID-19? How has the company responded?
We believe that AAM is ever more important during this pandemic, from drone deliveries to re-imagining the future of travel in unmanned, safe and smaller groups. For example, our drone delivery team is working directly with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK to assist with its response to the COVID-19 pandemic by moving medical supplies between healthcare facilities in Scotland. Our drones can reduce the total travel time of 6 hours by car and ferry to 15 minutes, providing a more efficient logistics service for hospitals, which in turn results in a better standard of care for patients.
Lastly, please tell us more about yourself and how you plan to grow the Skyports business in Asia.
I am an aerospace engineer by training, licensed private pilot and an aviation geek at heart. Having spent close to a decade helping airlines, airports and various aviation companies with long term strategy planning and operational improvements, I am excited to be now leading and growing Skyports business in Asia. This is a new industry, and no one has all the answers; we are always looking for partners to work with as well as talent to join us. Reach out to us here.