First ever vertiport opens in the UK
Over in the USA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has identified the creation of vertiports for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) planes as one of the important pillars for the realisation of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and Advanced Air Mobility (AAM).
But while the FAA and its partners still plan and design what kind of vertiports would be suitable for finally integrating unmanned aerial systems in urban airspaces, industry players in Europe may have beaten them to the practical phase of the operation, with a new pilot vertiport on the cards in the United Kingdom.
Urban-Air Port, a UK-based developer of ground infrastructure for air taxis and autonomous delivery drones, has announced the opening of a fully-operational hub for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles – such as air taxis and autonomous cargo drones – in the city of Coventry.
Called Air-One, the vertiport will operate for at least one month and aims to provide a blueprint for the more than 200 other vertiports that Urban-Air Port has planned worldwide over the next five years. Vertiports are planned for London, and internationally in the United States (Los Angeles), Australia, South Korea, France, Germany, Scandinavia and South East Asia.
“The advanced air mobility (AAM) market is set to take off, with forecasted growth of nine percent annually to reach $1 trillion within the next two decades,” Urban-Air Port said in a statement. “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 will demonstrate 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.”
The Coventry port will run with the backing of the UK Government and support of Supernal, a US-based mobility service provider, which will also have its initial concept vehicle, the S-A1, as well as electric vehicles on display.
The Air-One is a 1,700 square metre, prefabricated vertiport designed for both rapid assembly and disassembly. A central seventeen-metre diameter aircraft carrier serves as the final approach and take-off (Fato) platform in the centre of the structure to support the take-off and landing of eVTOL vehicles.
The interior is fully built out and allows the public to explore various passenger and operational zones, such as the passenger lounge, food, beverage and retail offerings, aircraft command and control centre, charging/refuelling and maintenance hangar and a dedicated cargo logistics hub and passenger processing and boarding zones.
Drone demonstrations will be conducted throughout Air-One’s stay in Coventry.
“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, founder and 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 fifteen 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.”
Flights of large cargo drones will also be demonstrated by UK-based drone developer, Malloy Aeronautics, which claims to be the first time a drone of this size has flown in such a dense and built-up urban environment.
Air-One seeks to demonstrate how purpose-built ground infrastructure can unlock the potential of AAM to decarbonise transport and cut air pollution and congestion, while providing seamless passenger journeys and deliveries.
Acting as a single solution to support the uptake of zero-emissions transport, 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 seamlessly integrate low carbon transport.
“Air-One serves as a valuable, tangible asset to helping build stakeholder confidence and trust in emerging mobility technology and supporting systems,” said Mike Whittaker, Supernal’s Chief Commercial Officer.
“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.”
The series of public engagement events at Air-One aim to bring future air mobility to life for the public and form part of Coventry’s City of Culture celebrations. Coventry University’s National Transport Design Centre, part of the research Centre for Future Transport and Cities, has played an important role in shaping Urban-Air Port’s customer journey through its user-centred design expertise.
As announced in October 2021, Urban-Air Port and the international business division of Munich Airport will also closely cooperate on the launch of Air-One.
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs, regeneration and climate change at Coventry City Council, said: “This city has a proud history of transport innovation and that legacy lives on with the landmark opening of Air-One.
“By harnessing the potential of advanced air mobility systems, this facility has the potential to revolutionise transport for the better. It’s designed to reduce congestion which in turn will boost productivity while supporting climate change efforts by taking vehicles off the roads. “We led the industrial revolution here in Coventry and now, with inventive facilities like this, we are leading the green industrial revolution too.”
Urban-Air Port says its vertiports are designed to be highly flexible, catering to four different 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 customers to decide the level of service they require. This can include 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.”