The Air-One airport will be 60 percent smaller than traditional heliports, can be installed in days, and emit net zero carbon emissions. (Hyundai Motor Group)
The UK government is funding an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) airport to be used by drones and air taxis. The Urban Air Port Air-One ‘pop up’ airport will be launched in Coventry by the end of 2021, according to a Jan. 27 press release.
The airport will be launched in partnership with Hyundai Motor Group, Coventry City Council, the UK government, and Urban Air Port. The funding for the project comes from the UK government’s Future Flight Challenge and totals £1.2 million (about $1.6 million).
“The benefit of an airport is that we think it can be transformational in the same way as mobile phones, transformed huge continents like India or parts of Africa, where costly and complicated and difficult fixed landline infrastructure, didn't need to be put in place,” Ricky Sandhu, founder and executive chairman of Urban Air Port, said. “So, because of the technologies in mobile phones that leapfrog effect has already happened for mobile phones. So we think in parts of the world where infrastructure is lacking in parts of the world and where populations are significantly growing like in Africa, we can immediately spread social equity by deploying an urban airport very rapidly to areas which are disconnected and have very difficult connectivity to the rest of the world.”
The Air-One airport will be 60 percent smaller than traditional heliports, can be installed in days, and emit net zero carbon emissions, according to Urban Air Port. It will be 14 meters in diameter to accommodate helicopters as well as a wide variety of eVTOL aircraft, Sandhu said. While the airport is designed for eVTOL’s it also serves as a hub for other sustainable transportation.
The Urban Air Port Air-One ‘pop up’ airport will be launched in Coventry by the end of 2021. (Hyundai Motor Group)
“The idea with it is that it's designed to have the approach of a helicopter,” Sandhu said. “It has an elevated platform, which once you've landed on it, it can move down to the ground level. So it's avoided all the obstacles on rooftops and in cities, and then you that the platform moves down to the grade level, where the vehicle can then be pushed to one of the stands and in the periphery of the airport for charging, for refueling, cleaning, or for passengers. So you have an integrated hangar. You have integrated maintenance. You have integrated staff training, passenger processing, and maybe even a bookshop and cafe.”
These airports will be able to operate completely off-grid, according to Urban Air Port. Their ability to operate with zero carbon emissions will also help the UK advance its climate change efforts.
“Urban Air Port has the potential to revolutionize cities across the world, making them more connected, cleaner, and accelerating our green economic recovery,” Gary Cutts, UK Research and Innovation Future Flight Challenge director, said. “This project epitomizes the purpose of the Future Flight Challenge fund – it is innovation at its finest – and will help to position the UK at the vanguard of electric urban air mobility.”
Cutts said the biggest hurdle for eVTOLs after regulation is public positive acceptance. He says a solution to this is showing people the opportunities that come with future technologies to create a demand for them. The goal is to demonstrate future eVTOL technology by 2024.
Urban Air Ports will be 14 meters in diameter to accommodate helicopters as well as a wide variety of eVTOL aircraft. (Hyundai Motor Group)
“I think our goal is absolutely to set timescales and challenges that might not be possible,” Cutts said. “You know if people don't think we're slightly mad in what we're trying to achieve, we're probably not quite been brave enough.”
Coventry was chosen as the first city for an Urban Air Port because of its connection to the automobile and aerospace industries, according to the Coventry City Council. It is also a hub for electric cars.
“We are already a city that is helping to shape the future of electric transport and this is yet another groundbreaking project that puts Coventry at the forefront of new technologies,” Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, said. “It highlights how the council is working alongside a range of organizations to help shape a better, greener future.”
Urban Air Port plans to develop over 200 of these airports over the next five years.
Hyundai is developing an eVTOL aircraft which will be commercialized by 2028, according to Hyundai Motor Group. The company says the development of eVTOL infrastructure like Air-One will help them achieve that goal.
“As we advance our eVTOL aircraft program, development of supporting infrastructure is imperative,” Pamela Cohn, chief operating officer for the urban air mobility division of Hyundai Motor Group, said. “Air-One is a unique project that is set to help lead the way in developing a robust, accessible, and intermodal infrastructure network for future mobility. We are excited to be part of this partnership in the UK and look forward to working together to create community impact and opportunity through safe, affordable, and human-centered mobility solutions.”
Malloy Aeronautics, a UK-based drone developer, has also shown interest in Air-One and will be demonstrating its large cargo drones at the airport.
“It is a key goal for Malloy – to introduce unmanned air logistics into an urban environment and merge it with supporting infrastructure that is flexible and resilient, hosting intelligent operating systems and state of the art innovation,” Oriol Badia, CEO of Malloy Aeronautics, said. “Air-One provides the ability to service multiple transport requirements of the future – from disaster relief to essential and everyday supplies for citizens across the UK. These are truly exciting opportunities especially with a strong partnership between Malloy and Urban Air Port® – thus unifying serviceability and operability, forming a turnkey product.”