COVENTRY will become home to the world’s first electric ‘Urban Air Port’ after the Government today announced the city had won its Future Flight Challenge.
Aviation infrastructure and systems will be developed to enable the next generation of electric and autonomous air vehicles to operate from there.
‘Air-One’ will cater for Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft, including air taxis and autonomous delivery drones to transport people and cargo across cities in the coming years.
Hyundai Motor Group, Coventry City Council and the UK Government have partnered with Urban Air Port for the launch which will demonstrate the potential of urban air mobility for the UK and worldwide.
It has the potential to reduce congestion and cut air pollution to help achieve a zero carbon future and can be integrated with electric vehicles and sustainable public transport.
Urban Air Port plans to install more than 200 zero emission sites worldwide over the next five years in response to global demand.
Cities across the UK and many more globally have already expressed an interest in installing an Urban Air Port.
Having secured funding for Air-One, Urban Air Port is now in discussions with investors to support its rapid commercialisation and global growth.
The operator chose Coventry for the first site due to its location in the heart of the UK and because of its history in the automobile and aerospace industry.
It was impressed by the pool of people and skills and felt it could support the manufacturing industries of the future.
The city’s unique location also provides easy access within four hours to most parts of the country.
In December 2020, Coventry was named the best UK town for electric cars and earlier this year the Government announced Coventry and Oxford would become the UK’s first all-electric bus cities.
The Air-One hub – on land near the Ricoh Arena – will be unveiled during Coventry’s 2021 UK City of Culture celebrations and continue to form part of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.
It will showcase live demonstrations of remote aircraft command and control, charging and refuelling and cargo and passenger loading.
The loading will be for manned and unmanned eVTOL aircraft operating in three key markets – passenger air taxi services, autonomous logistics and disaster emergency management.
UK drone developer, logistics and engineering company Malloy Aeronautics is Urban Air Port’s UK drone aircraft partner.
The company’s large cargo drones will be demonstrated at the Air-One site.
A key factor to its ultimate success will be furthering public understanding and acceptance of the new technology and Coventry University has been brought on board as a research partner to help with that.
Coun Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council’s Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, said: “We are already a city that is helping to shape the future of electric transport and this is yet another ground breaking project that puts Coventry at the forefront of new technologies.
“It highlights how the council is working alongside a range of organisations to help shape a better, greener future.”
Ricky Sandhu, Founder and Executive Chairman of Urban Air Port, said: “Cars need roads. Trains need rails. Planes need airports. eVTOLs will need Urban Air Ports.
“Over 100 years ago, the world’s first commercial flight took off, creating the modern connected world.
“Urban Air Port will improve connectivity across our cities, boost productivity and help the UK to take the lead in a whole new clean global economy.
“Flying cars used to be a futuristic flight of fancy. Air-One will bring clean urban air transport to the masses and unleash a new airborne world of zero emission mobility.”
Pamela Cohn, Chief Operating Officer for the Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group, said: “As we advance our eVTOL aircraft programme, development of supporting infrastructure is imperative. 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-centred mobility solutions.”
The physical footprint of an Urban Air Port® is 60 per cent smaller than a traditional heliport (the most comparable existing infrastructure).
Using innovative construction, the sites can be installed in a matter of days, emit net zero carbon emissions and can be operated completely off-grid, meaning they do not always have to rely on a suitable grid connection.
Urban Air Port provides an integrated approach to the decarbonisation of cities.
It is designed to support any eVTOL aircraft and complements other modes of sustainable transport as a hub for electric vehicles, buses or scooters.
The design enables Urban Air Ports to be easily moved to alternative sites, as the air-mobility sector develops.
This design also means the sites are ideal for disaster emergency management. Urban Air Ports can rapidly deploy drones and other eVTOL to collect and transport emergency supplies, equipment and people where needed.
Gary Cutts, UK Research and Innovation Future Flight Challenge Director, said: “Urban Air Port has the potential to revolutionise cities across the world, making them more connected, cleaner and accelerating our green economic recovery.
“This project epitomises 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.”