Air Taxi

Skyports and SITA Partner to Explore Biometric and Vertiport Technology

Skyports, a vertiport developer and operator, announced plans last week to develop biometric and vertiport technology in partnership with SITA. Above is an illustration from Skyports’ partnership with Hanwha of their vertiport concept. (Photo courtesy of Hanwha)

UK-based vertiport developer Skyports announces plans to develop biometric and vertiport technology in partnership with SITA, an IT provider with expertise in airport technology. SITA’s Smart Path biometric solution will be integrated with Skyports’ system to create a seamless passenger experience for those traveling in electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

This next phase for Skyports is all about defining the experience for its end-users, explained Duncan Walker, CEO of Skyports, in the company’s announcement. “Advanced Air Mobility has presented an opportunity to reimagine the entire travel experience, from the vehicles we use and energy sources we rely on, right down to the way passengers book and check-in to flights,” Walker remarked.

President of Europe at SITA, Sergio Colella, commented that this new partnership enables them to use existing airport technology to reimagine the passenger experience. SITA will simplify each step in the process of booking, checking in, and boarding for eVTOL flights with facial biometric technology or a mobile application.

Skyports shared news of a partnership with eVTOL aircraft developer Wisk in April. As part of their collaboration, the companies published a concept of operations for autonomous urban air mobility (UAM) operations and vertiport integration. This document emphasized the importance of a standardized data system for vertiport operations, as well as the need for a resource management and scheduling system (RMSS) for vertiports. 

An RMSS is one of three pillars of Skyports’ technology framework for vertiport operations, according to Ankit Dass, Skyports’ Chief Technology Officer. The other two pillars are passenger identity management and situational awareness systems. “We do not want to reinvent the wheel,” said Dass. Rather, they are looking for the best-in-class software providers to meet the needs of the use cases that Skyports needs to solve.

Dass said that Skyports is exploring how their understanding of advanced air mobility (AAM) and vertiport infrastructure development will “create the use case which is right for passengers who will be using this new form of transportation.”

SITA has provided passenger identification solutions for the air transport industry for many years, Dass remarked, although their solutions are designed with the needs of traditional airports in mind. “They have a digital solution toolkit which enables us to effectively and efficiently manage passenger identity during the check-in process, and anything related to passenger support within the terminal,” he shared.

Because the solutions SITA offers need to be tailored specifically to vertiport technology, Skyports’ collaboration with SITA was intentionally formed as a partnership rather than a software procurement. The two companies will coordinate to adapt and customize SITA’s solutions to create the ideal experience for an eVTOL passenger.

The technology developed to provide biometric solutions for passenger identification will be central to Skyports’ strategy moving forward because it connects to both the scheduling management system and the resource management and planning system. SITA’s solutions will help Skyports to identify the number of passengers arriving at any given time; this data in turn will be used to evaluate the most efficient way to manage passenger boarding and de-boarding, leading to faster turnaround times for the aircraft.

Dass and the Skyports team do not envision passengers spending a long time in the terminal or needing to arrive hours before their flight’s scheduled departure. It’s more like a subway station, he explained. Facial recognition could enable passengers to arrive at the terminal, check in, and go to the appropriate vertiport within a matter of minutes. With biometric technologies, Dass said, “your face becomes your ticket.” 

“We will be hosting the solution in the cloud to make sure that [it] is scalable and adaptable across different regions and geographies—because we are building vertiports to deploy globally,” he explained. “We need to make sure we capture enough data while doing this to optimize processes, and work with SITA to onboard new technology, to understand growth hotspots, [and] where to improve efficiencies to make it better. That’s what this partnership is all about.”

Reserving a spot at a vertiport will be a dynamic process, Dass says, somewhere in between an operator booking an airline’s spot at an airport months in advance and a customer booking a ride with Uber where the driver shows up within minutes. 

Skyports’ team is working with multiple industry partners, including OEMs, to learn how they envision the process of reserving a spot at a vertiport. They are aiming to hit various milestones each quarter over the next 12 months, and the expectation is that by this time next year, the solution will be ready to deploy at some of Skyports’ test vertiport sites. These sites will provide useful feedback for improving Skyports’ entire system and ensure technological readiness for initial commercial operations.

Just a few months ago, Skyports announced $23 million in investments from their latest round of funding. The capital came from existing shareholders in the company such as Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures, Solar Ventus, Groupe ADP, Irelandia, and Levitate Capital. There were also multiple new investors in this funding round, including Kanematsu Corporation, Goodman Group, 2i Aeroporti, and U.S.-based VC firm GreenPoint.

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