Monday 25 April saw UK-based developer of ground infrastructure for air taxis and autonomous delivery drones, Urban-Air Port, open Air-One – a world-first demonstration of a fully-operational hub for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles.
With Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) predicted to become a trillion-dollar market within the next two decades the launch of Air-One heralds a tipping point for the age of zero-emission, low-congestion urban transport.
Situated in a car park in Coventry, a short walk from the city centre’s main train station and surrounded by busy roads and a built-up urban environment, getting Air-One up and established has been no feat. Addressing media and delegates attending the official unveiling of his vertiport, Ricky Sandhu, Urban-Air Port Founder and Chief Executive, said the project had been a truly collaborative effort. He credited his entire team of 25 staff, as well as the UK Government, Supernal and Hyundai (who are working with Urban-Air Port to develop plans for AAM, including eVTOL aircraft), Coventry City Council and Coventry University for their support in the establishment and unveiling of Air-One. The international business division of Munich Airport is also closely cooperating on the launch of the infrastructure to help ensure the project becomes a blueprint for future vertiport developments.
“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,” said Sandhu.
Introducing his Chief Development Officer, Stuart Bloomfield, to the audience Sandhu also proudly noted that “the order book already contains orders currently valuing £65 million.”
The circular shaped “vertiport” or “urban air port” as Sandhu prefers to call it is a 1,700 sq.m. structure featuring a take-off and landing platform in the centre that can be raised up and down to launch eVTOLs, such as air taxis, as well as drones. In the departure/ arrivals area surrounding the landing platform, passengers and customers will be able to browse carefully selected, sustainable fashion brands and enjoy sustainably sourced food as well as beverages at the Urban Air-Port cafe. Electric charging points for cars will be featured in the car park, so that those dropping off passengers or collecting deliveries can charge their vehicles while waiting.
“Our non-aeronautical brand, Urban-Air Choice, is key to our model. We want customers to come and charge their cars here, grab a coffee and use our app to purchase the brands being showcased here so it can then be dispatched by drone delivery,” Sandhu tells Regional Gateway.
Despite a booming market and a strong pipeline of eVTOLs entering commercial operations this decade, the lack of ground infrastructure remains one of the single biggest barriers to growth, according to analysis by NASA. Air-One demonstrates how purpose-built ground infrastructure can unleash the potential of AAM to decarbonise transport and cut air pollution and congestion, whilst providing seamless passenger journeys and deliveries.
Urban-Air Port is accelerating plans to develop 200 vertiports worldwide with infrastructure already planned elsewhere in the UK, the US, Australia, South Korea, France, Germany, Scandinavia and South East Asia.
Designed to be highly flexible and to cater to different markets, Urban-Air Port vertiports can be deployed at short notice to enable drones and other eVTOL aircraft to collect and transport emergency supplies, equipment and people in disaster situations such as floods or earthquakes. They can also be operated completely off-grid using on-site hydrogen fuel cell, zero-emission generation technology.
The company’s revenue model is based on offering varying models ranging from simply purchasing Urban-Air Port 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 solutions.
Flights of large cargo drones by Malloy Aeronautics, as well as Skyfarer and West Midlands Police, were demonstrated during the launch.
“Our vision is that AAM and Urban-Air Port infrastructure will be so integrated into our built-up environment that you won’t even see it. They will be like a train station or bus stop – immersed in a city environment, on rooftops, on rivers, city boxes. The cool thing is that this technology and this infrastructure will mitigate drones flying everywhere, as there will be key points to fly to and from. It will become normalised,” Sandhu concluded.