The Dymond Group of Companies has pegged Newfoundland as the frontrunner to host its first Air-One vertiport in Canada, after acquiring a 10% stake in U.K. infrastructure startup Urban-Air Port (UAP).
Dymond said it is leaning toward building a vertiport at Stephenville International Airport on Newfoundland’s west coast, pending finalization of an agreement to purchase the airport.
“It just makes sense for it to be in Stephenville because that’s the airport our CEO is buying,” said Wayne Forster, director of operations and strategic planning for the Dymond Group, a Canada-based aerospace, logistics, cybersecurity, and risk management services company.
Dymond is still doing feasibility studies to determine the location, but Forster said it will “most likely” be Stephenville, a former U.S. Air Force base built under a land lease agreement with Britain during the Second World War, before Newfoundland became part of Canada.
Dymond Group also plans to establish a second Air-One vertiport, designed and manufactured by UAP, at an undisclosed location in western Canada. Construction on both vertiports is expected to begin within the next two years.
“We’ve looked at a number of sites out west, but we haven’t finalized a decision on that yet,” Forster said.
Forster did not provide a list of possible sites, but said he expects the western vertiport will be able to service remote Indigenous communities, a key part of Dymond’s corporate mission.
“We want to make sure we have the capacity to fly into remote areas, and fly into areas that, in the wintertime, are less accessible,” he said. “But we’re also looking at major strategic hubs. If we put one somewhere in Alberta, we’re going to have it in a location that the next one — in phase two or three of development — will be able to tie in, flight wise.”
As for which eVTOL developers Dymond plans to work with, Forster said the company has conducted a feasibility study with a number of companies.
“Have we chosen a specific one [eVTOL model] to go with? No,” Forster said. “There’s lots of opportunities for technological advancement in the field.”
Dymond’s long-term vision is to create a national network of vertiports, closely integrated with legacy airports, rail lines and public transit, that would replace land cargo transport and provide air taxi passenger service in every major Canadian city.
The company also sees massive potential to supply remote northern communities more affordably with fresh food and other supplies that can take weeks to arrive by plane.
“It creates an opportunity to have better food sovereignty in the Canadian north,” Forster said. “One of our mandates is to be able to ship those commodities … in a relatively acceptable amount of time — a couple of hours [versus] a couple of weeks — and charge a modest price.”
UAP’s Air-One vertiports are designed to house mission control, aircraft charging, and cargo and passenger loading, all of which are expected to feature in the models built for Dymond.
UAP recently unveiled a fully-functional Air-One hub in Coventry, U.K., and has said it plans to develop 200 vertiport sites around the world in the next five years.
Supernal, the urban air mobility division of Hyundai Motor Group, has also signed on as a major investor in UAP, and a Supernal executive sits on UAP’s board of directors.
As a result of Dymond’s ownership stake, founder and CEO Carl Dymond also received a seat on the UAP board.
Dymond sees eVTOL service as a carbon-friendly alternative to its existing helicopter service and short-hop fixed-wing transfers, but Forster said the company may also use biofuel as a bridge during the long-term transition to fully electric travel.
“We have to consider using that sort of component as a steppingstone to get away from carbon-based fuels,” he said. “There’s lots of development there.”
It’s unclear what regulations vertiport developers will be required to follow from Transport Canada, or if vertiports could be certified under existing regulations for passenger airports and cargo drones.
“Our plan is to work very closely with Transport Canada to ensure we get the regulations right,” Forster said. “We want to work hand in hand, and be right there when those regulations come out, so that we can implement them.”
Dymond Group has also pledged support for the Canadian Advanced Air Mobility Consortium and its goal to create a Canadian Advanced Air Mobility Master Plan.
The plan began development in April 2021 and is expected to wrap up in 2023, with input from 15 industry stakeholders, including Supernal and NavCanada.
“These are some really exciting times in this field,” Forster said. “Exponentially, this is going to expand. We feel it’s a good business [for the] future.”