Welkin Aero, in collaboration with Verti-Go Solutions and strategic partners, AM Risk Solutions, Slick Holdings, ARFF South Africa and other role players, announced today that they will review project plans previously drawn up in 2016 for phase one of a group of heliports in various strategic locations, this time with a difference.
The announcement came after renewed interest from global Angel Investors responding to a feasibility study indicating that there is a realistic demand for a helicopter refuelling solution along the Johannesburg to Durban air route provided that it also incorporates future planning for global eVTOL developers in the Urban Air Mobility industry.
Phase one involves a dual purpose heliport and vertiport too be located north of Harrismith and also includes “satellite helistops” with the first ones being considered in either the Bergville or Winterton area to accommodate the demand for a CAA registered, safe and reliable refuelling location along the popular air route used by private and commercial operators.
Director of Welkin Aero, Jo Nieman, explained that a lot of time and money has already been invested in engineering designs which also involved many hours of aerial surveying to scout locations, studying meteorological data, engaging with aviators, landowners and municipal authorities and evaluating the data to look at factors such as safety, approach paths, obstacles and the environment.
He said: “No two locations have the same dynamics and location is key but safety is the number one priority above all. It’s a delicate balance that I have come across many times when project planning helipads. Out of 20 sites inspected so far, we’ve only identified 5 that tick all the boxes.”
“If we cannot bring positive change or some sort of value to everyone involved, then we see no value in doing it at all.” Mr Nieman also stated that the heliports and helistops were part of a “much bigger picture” and that the planning brief given to designers and partners was to future proof the heliports to ensure that they can also serve as Vertiports for the anticipated coming of eVTOL technology in the near future.
Mr Nieman has been in Europe since October 2020 to meet with other Urban Air Mobility entrepreneurs and eVTOL developers to bring back lessons learnt but also to engage with potential investors who have expressed an interest in the project.
“It’s early days,” he stressed, “but it’s also an exciting opportunity to solve 2 problems at the same time by satisfying an immediate demand and pave the way to the future for any developers who wish to bring their eVTOL craft to Southern Africa.
He added: “We have engaged with two different Civil Aviation Authorities in Southern Africa, who are well aware of our intentions and have called on us in the past to advise them on Urban Air Mobility matters. We will continue to work closely with these authorities as things progress because they are just as excited about the future, the employment opportunities, ease of transport and numerous other benefits it will bring.”
“Within the next three months we will have streamlined all our operations into a single business entity and this is where Verti-Go Solutions comes into the picture so that we can focus all our resources and technical expertise under one roof."
“It simply just ticks so many boxes and is an extremely attractive investment opportunity but sure it has its risks like anything else that’s worth investing in.”