Timeline: Planned – to be launched within two to five years; funds have been committed and key industry partners identified
Harbour Heliport – West Vancouver (5km)
Harbour Heliport – Lions Bay (21km)
Harbour Heliport – Grouse Mountain (11km)
Harbour Heliport – North Vancouver (5km)
Harbour Heliport – Burnaby (9km)
Harbour Heliport – Port Moody (19km)
Harbour Heliport – Coquitlam (19km)
Harbour Heliport – New Westminster (19km)
Harbour Heliport – Surrey (22km)
Harbour Heliport – Delta (19km)
Harbour Heliport – BC Ferries Terminal (29km)
Harbour Heliport – White Rock (32km)
Harbour Heliport – Bowen Island (19km)
Harbour Heliport – Gibsons (32km)
Harbour Heliport – Pitt Meadows (30km)
Harbour Heliport – YVR (13km)
Harbour Heliport – Vancouver CC (3km)
Vancouver has been targeted as an early UAM/AAM mover within the national AAM development plan – see Canada – country introduction. In September 2020 CAAM, Nexa Advisors and Crown Consulting Inc produced a white paper on developing UAM/AAM services in Vancouver. Subsequently, CAAM announced it would launch a revenue generating proof of concept flight in the city.
The following is verbatim, edited text, outlining the project’s key operational aspects.
This will be done in stages using an RPAS on an alternate route before larger aircraft are used. Partners for this project included Indro Robotics, Helijet, National Research Council Canada, British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Doosan.
The plan envisages:
• Setting aside up to 15 percent of AAM capacity and flights to guarantee low- or no-cost access for the region’s most vulnerable residents. These costs would be cross-subsidized through multi-tier pricing regimes developed in agreement, and in full transparency, between operators and local and provincial transportation authorities.
• Opening up opportunities to those who live too far from the city center to have a feasible commute. Easier, more rapid, and inexpensive transportation would provide greater access to better-paying jobs.
• Providing regional transportation of passengers and delivery of goods between city pairs such as downtown Vancouver to Greater Seattle (Kent, Renton, etc.), Whistler, Kamloops, Abbotsford, Osoyoos, and Kelowna.
• Complementing and diversifying public transportation operations. For example, providing metropolitan transportation options for commuters between heavily populated suburban communities, such as Surrey, the Gulf Islands, the North Shore of Vancouver, and the lower Mainland, to the outermost Skytrain stations.
• Tourism in clean, green, quiet aircraft to British Columbia’s breathtaking natural wonders and the world’s most diverse assembly of living Indigenous communities.
A recent 75 city study on AAM performed by /NEXA Advisors/UAM Geomatics Inc.5 estimated that, over a 20-year period, the Greater Vancouver area would cumulatively serve about 4.2 million passengers using eVTOL aircraft, limited to five service types: airport shuttle, on-demand air taxi, regional air mobility, business and corporate campus services, and Medevac. This would produce about $2.1 billion in new business activity over that same period. The estimate includes $181 million in ground infrastructure, $78 million for UTM systems and infrastructure, and finally, $250 million in eVTOL aircraft acquisitions. The investment required to complete the new facilities can be arranged through formation of public-private partnerships, largely or exclusively funded by the private sector.
Helicopters and sea plane air operators have the experience, infrastructure, and regulatory licenses to easily transition to eVTOL aircraft using their current offshore flight corridors—channeling noise and visual disturbances away from populated areas.
• 54 existing helipads. These could be remediated at reasonable cost as vertiports with battery recharging stations and passenger amenities
• 15 hospital centers. Seven are equipped with helipads. These would benefit from drone delivery of supplies and eVTOL Medevac rescue operations.
Regional Air Mobility Including Trans-Border Services
A strong preference for short inter-regional travel, such as Nanaimo to Langley or Victoria to Port Hardy, finds new demand that airlines cannot serve. Vancouver has long, thin routes such as downtown Vancouver heliport to Kent or Renton, as well as Abbotsford, Osoyoos, and Chilliwack. British Columbia has 13 drivable border crossings along its 687-kilometer border with Washington State. The busiest crossings are the four that serve the Seattle /Vancouver area. Before the COVID-19 epidemic reduced traffic in the spring of 2020, some 32,000 vehicles crossed through the Peace Arch, Blaine, Lynden, or Sumas ports with wait times of between two and four hours during peak travel times.
Regional air transport using eVTOLs is also potentially disruptive to today’s commercial air transport model. The figure below illustrates one-way travel time between a residence in downtown Vancouver to Everett, Washington.
The eVTOL travel option has the potential to boost trade and cooperation along the Cascadia Innovation Corridor. Vancouver, Seattle and Portland have much in common: proximity to Asia and market-leading capabilities in key economic sectors. By more closely and conveniently linking these cities through new AAM transportation options, enhanced mobility should guarantee greater trade opportunities. The Corridor will create incremental new prospects beyond what could be achieved with the status quo. Regional Air Mobility can also serve communities across British Columbia. Tying air mobility services into the Translink stations within Greater Vancouver can offer options and create new economics for businesses and residents.
Emergency Services, Including Medevac and Critical Supply or Equipment Delivery Emergency services include medical evacuation using eVTOL and the delivery of critical supplies and equipment, all in life threatening and time-critical situations. In British Columbia, the Province funds and maintains a service to provide such capabilities through existing charter operators of fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft. eVTOLs will likely complement these fleets in the near future.
Services for Underserved Northern Communities
Well before the advent of COVID-19, Canada’s Indigenous communities suffered from substandard housing and healthcare, and a lack of accessible transportation opportunities for both people and supplies. eVTOL aircraft with room for passengers and more space for cargo could complement the drone services. The new eVTOL technology, supported by future charging infrastructure, could be applied to the more than 1,000 remote communities across Canada, especially in Arctic regions.
Airport Shuttle Services
Greater Vancouver, including southern Vancouver Island, has 12 airports, including several that handle airline traffic, the largest being Vancouver International, Victoria International, and Abbotsford International. Smaller airports such as Nanaimo and Tofino are used principally by private aircraft and small commercial turboprop planes. These airports provide a valuable mobility platform for British Columbia as the mountains make surface travel very difficult. Vancouver International (YVR), the region’s largest airport, managed over 26.4 million passengers in “The goal is to create this world-class hub ecosystem related to UAM that will touch on transport of people, transport of goods, medical capabilities, and UAS services.”
Tying downtown city locations (like UBC, North Vancouver, etc.) and regional centers (like Surrey, Abbotsford, etc.) to YVR will become a high-value application of AAM. A well-run airport will look towards capitalizing AAM to maximize the utility and convenience of its facilities. Airports are the logical point of ingress for eVTOLs into an urban transportation network. Early on, airports will be the only locations with UTM systems required for low volume flights. However, as AAM becomes more prevalent, airports will be required to build out vertiport facilities, battery charging stations, hydrogen cell refueling, and people moving systems, as well as isolating the AAM activity from and integrating passenger flow with conventional airport operations. Vancouver has an incredible public transportation service to YVR with emphasis on light rail, taxis, bus service, and even float planes as options. In future, however, passengers originating in far-flung locations such as Nanaimo, Tofino, Port Hardy, or Chilliwack could find greater utility from a direct connection. In addition, we anticipate airport-to-airport shuttles; for instance, from YVR to Abbotsford, as well as airport-to-ferry terminals, such as Tsawassen and Horseshoe Bay.
AAM costs will likely be affordable and competitive and should have the potential to reduce surface traffic congestion as the eVTOLs will be operating within the airport perimeter.
Other eVTOL Use Cases
A network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically should enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities. Consortium partner Helijet has given more detailed eVTOL route possibilities. Subsequently, Blade Air Mobility acquired rights to offer Helijet scheduled flights in Canada and across the US Pacific Northwest region, with plans to incorporate eVTOL aircraft on routes. The company has taken over heliports controlled by Pacific Heliport Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Helijet and operates and manages heliport infrastructure in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo, British Colombia.
Meanwhile, in August 2022, Harbour Air ePlane’s team announced that the first direct all-electric point to point test flight has been completed. The De Havilland Beaver was retrofitted in 2019 to operate using 100% electricity and flew 45 miles in 24 minutes. The aircraft left their terminal on the Fraser River adjacent to YVR and landed in Pat Bay adjacent to YYJ.
The company has announced its intentions to become an all electric airline. The re-built DeHavilland Beaver will be equipped with a Hartzell 4-blade raptor composite propeller, a magniX motor. The FAA has issued a Special Condition paper that will allow it to certify the system as an aircraft engine under FAA Aviation Regulation 14 CFR Part 33. This program is being run concurrently with Transport Canada. Battery partner, H55 has a pathway to certification with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
M1 Composites Technology
Electric fixed wing platform manufacturer:
UAM/AAM aircraft operator:
Air Canada Cargo
Drone Delivery Canada
Vancouver International Airport
Local authority partner/client:
Canada NRC CNRC
Vancouver Economic Commission
Nexa Capital Partners (Finance)
Canadian Air Mobility (Finance)
Vertical Flight Society
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