A key role of any innovation hub worth its salt is to attract high-growth companies seeking to commercialise technologies in growth sectors. For the Northern Territory, one of these growth sectors is advanced manufacturing.

The Darwin Innovation Hub provides high-growth companies support through access to direct venture capital investment, expert advice and highly valuable grant programs, such as Accelerating Commercialisation, which will match private sector investment on a dollar-for-dollar basis with a Commonwealth Government grant up to $1 million per project. Amphibian Aerospace Industries (AAI) has been recently supported and invested in with $1.5 million early stage investment funding through the Paspalis Innovation Investment Fund No 2.

The investment funding will be used by AAI to leverage co-investment from the Northern Territory Local Jobs Fund and kickstart a program to refurbish and build a new version of the legendary Albatross flying boat – an aircraft that can take off and touch down on land, snow, ice and water.

The “new” G-111T Albatross will feature, on the proven airframe, new Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67F engines providing substantially improved performance, fuel economy and reliability. AAI is relocating its refurbished aircraft from Melbourne to Darwin, establishing a new facility and office at Darwin International Airport.

AAI is a good example of how early stage technology investment in an aviation manufacturing company can not only provide a technology proof of concept but also unlock a pathway towards later stage capital investment, modern manufacturing, skilled jobs and industry growth in Darwin.

AAI first caught the eye of the Darwin Innovation Hub when it took out first prize at our annual Croc Pitch event in 2021 impressing the judging panel with its aspirations to create a modern assembly and manufacturing facility for the Albatross in Darwin.

Another winning point was that AAI already owned a tangible existing Albatross aircraft with all associated certifications, meaning an operating amphibious aircraft could be landing in Darwin Harbour before the end of the dry season in 2022.

Modern manufacturing is a goal for Australia. Why not have a go? Manufacturing companies such as AAI attract a supplier base around them, and companies who have not explored the NT before, as an aviation manufacturing base, are now looking at what can be created here.

We believe this project will also be able to leverage other grant programs consistent with Australia’s desire to relaunch modern manufacturing and high value jobs in Australia.

The base model of the new Albatross will be the G-111T. According to AAI, several variants will follow the G-111T on the market. These include:

  • Combi passenger/cargo – 28 passengers plus three crew and luggage in a comfortable cabin equipped with a galley and restroom easily reconfigured to 4.5 T of useable cargo capacity for water operations
  • Aeromedevac – capable of transporting up to 12 stretcher cases in a single lift with basic patient monitoring systems
  • Aeromedical – 4-6 stretchers with capacity for more sophisticated medical monitoring and treatment capabilities
  • Search and rescue – capable of missions of up to 12 hours (extendable to 20 hours with external fuel tanks) equipped with mission systems and sensors tailored to specific customer requirements