Hub for flying taxis set up in Coventry

  • May 9, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Urban-Air Port, a UK-based developer of ground infrastructure for air taxis and autonomous delivery drones, has opened Air-One, a demonstration of a fully-operational hub for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles.

Based in Coventry, UK, the hub can be used by air taxis and autonomous cargo drones, with the goal of heralding a new age of zero-emission, low-congestion urban transport.

Urban-Air Port – backed by the UK government and supported by Supernal – will operate Air-One in the heart of Coventry for at least a month. This will provide a blueprint for more than 200 vertiports planned worldwide by Urban-Air Port over the next five years.

Hyundai Motor subsidiary Supernal is a USA-based mobility service provider developing an eVTOL vehicle and working to co-create the supporting ecosystem and integrate it into existing transit options.

The advanced air mobility (AAM) market is set to take off, with forecasted growth of nine per cent annually to reach $1tn within the next two decades. Despite a booming market and a strong pipeline of eVTOLs entering commercial operations this decade, the lack of ground infrastructure remains one of the biggest barriers to growth, according to analysis by Nasa.

Air-One aims to demonstrate how purpose-built ground infrastructure can unleash the potential of AAM to decarbonise transport and cut air pollution and congestion, while providing seamless passenger journeys and deliveries.

“The opening of Air-One is a momentous moment – the starting gun for a new age of transport, an age of zero-emission, congestion-free travel between and within cities that will make people healthier, happier and more connected than ever before,” said Ricky Sandhu, executive chairman of Urban-Air Port. “Cars have roads. Trains have rails. Planes have airports. Now, eVTOLs have an Urban-Air Port. From design, through to fabrication and now into operation, Urban-Air Port has delivered Air-One in just 15 months, setting the standard for deployment globally and opening up a world of possibilities for rapid response air mobility. Air-One is just the first model in our infrastructure fleet and our order-book is not only open but already growing. The interest is turning into recognition of the need for our technology and into demand.”

Robert Courts, the UK government minister for aviation, added: “British innovation has a rich history of transforming global transportation, from the creation of the railroads in the 1800s, to the growth of great British brands such as Jaguar, Triumph and Rover in the 1950s. The opening of Air-One, backed by government funding, will revolutionise the way people and goods travel across the nation. This step forward puts Britain at the vanguard of clean transport, bringing investment and high-skilled, green job opportunities to the nation, while levelling up opportunity in the Midlands.”

Urban-Air Port is accelerating its plans to develop 200 vertiports worldwide, and the company’s order book for additional sites is growing, with vertiports already planned in the UK in the West Midlands and London, and internationally in Los Angeles, Australia, South Korea, France, Germany, Scandinavia and south-east Asia.

“Air-One serves as a valuable, tangible asset to helping build stakeholder confidence and trust in emerging mobility technology and supporting systems,” said Mike Whitaker, chief commercial officer of Supernal. “The Coventry demonstration is an important first step forward to reimagining how people across the world will move, connect and live. Developing a scalable system to support advanced air mobility operations requires collaboration from all industries and corners of the world. Supernal’s support of Urban-Air Port reinforces our belief in fusing technology and innovation to enable humanity and society to reach new levels of potential.”

Air-One will demonstrate aircraft command and control, eVTOL charging, and cargo loading for unmanned drones, and will host demonstrator flights. West Midlands Police and Skyfarer will be among the first to operate flights from the site, showcasing how vertiports can provide drone bases for sky protection and high-value cargo deliveries in the near future. Flights of large cargo drones will also be demonstrated by UK-based drone developer, Malloy Aeronautics, marking the first time a drone of this size has flown in such a dense and built-up urban environment.

Air-One will also host charging infrastructure for other modes of electric transport, including electric vehicles from some of the world’s biggest and most well-known automotive brands, to integrate low carbon transport seamlessly. There will also be a series of public engagement events at Air-One.

Coventry University’s National Transport Design Centre, part of the research Centre for Future Transport & Cities, has played an important role in shaping Urban-Air Port’s journey through user-centred design expertise. Researchers have worked to ensure Air-One’s design is accessible, easy to navigate and a pleasure to use.

As announced in October 2021, Urban-Air Port and the international business division of Munich Airport will closely cooperate on the launch of Air-One. This partnership will help ensure that the vertiport project becomes a blueprint for future vertiport deployments in multiple environments and settings.

Coventry was chosen for the site due to its location in the heart of the UK, with most parts of the country within four hours of travel.

Following the programme in Coventry in summer 2022, Urban-Air Port will redeploy Air-One to other locations in the UK and internationally to undertake a variety of demonstrations in different environments and settings.

Urban-Air Port’s vertiports are designed to be flexible, catering to four markets: passenger air taxis; autonomous delivery drones; disaster emergency management and defence operations; and logistics. They can even be deployed at short notice to enable drones and other eVTOL aircrafts to collect and transport emergency supplies, equipment and people in disaster situations such as floods or earthquakes and can be operated completely off-grid using on-site hydrogen fuel cell, zero-emission generation.

Urban-Air Port will generate revenue through an infrastructure-as-a-service model, enabling users to decide the level of service they require. This can include simply purchasing infrastructure, through to a full-service offering that includes site-specific design development and ongoing operations and maintenance for their ground, air and digital infrastructure.