The FAA recently announced the release of its new vertiport design guidelines, Engineering Brief No. 105 for Vertiport Design (“Guidance”). The Guidance marks a significant milestone in the FAA’s efforts to support the development of infrastructure required for Advanced Air Mobility. The Guidance provides interim safety standards for eVTOL take-off and landing facilities, which are commonly referred to as “vertiports” or “vertistops.” Incorporating FAA research, collaboration with industry, and public feedback, the new Guidance provides key resources to infrastructure facilities and developers as they plan for the integration of eVTOL aircraft into mainstream use. Ultimately, the FAA expects the guidance to evolve into a performance-based design standard in the form of an Advisory Circular, which may be influenced by design standards developed by other stakeholders, including standards development organizations and other jurisdictions’ aviation authorities.
The Guidance provides interim guidelines for civil vertiport designers to establish an acceptable level of safety, performance and operation in vertiport designs, such as safety-critical geometry, including spatial and dimensional requirements for vertiport touchdown and liftoff areas, approach/departure paths, and load-bearing capacity. It also provides design guidance for developers of on-airport vertiports to be added to existing commercial airports, and for elevated vertiports added on top of existing structures.
As eVTOL aircraft development and the attention to related infrastructure continues to grow, other key stakeholders have similarly begun preparing initial vertiport design standards. In August, standards development organization ASTM International published a new Standard Specification for Vertiport Design, which is intended to provide scalable specifications to states and municipalities for the design and development of AAM infrastructure. Earlier this year, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (“EASA”) published its first-ever vertiport design specifications.
AAM infrastructure development is rapidly evolving. Stakeholder awareness and engagement will be critical to ensure the effectiveness of adopted standards, including the FAA’s eventual performance-based design standard for vertiports.