As technology develops and attitudes change, new transport options will open up. From bike-sharing schemes and app-based ride-hailing services to hydrogen-powered buses and trains, urban mobility is rapidly changing. Eventually, it will inevitably include electrified drone technology.
But while a full-blown air taxi service may still be a fair way off, technologies such as delivery drones are not. In fact, they’re probably a lot closer to becoming a reality than most people think—as we already have the core technology. It’s just a matter of putting the infrastructure in place.
This is where Urban Air-Port’s project (called ‘Air-One’) comes in, which will see the English city, Coventry, become home to the world’s first airport (or ‘Urban Air Port’) for electric aircraft.
A graphic representation of the planned ‘Urban Air Port’: Air-One, the front of which shows a Hyundai electric VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft
Image credit: Urban Air Port Ltd via small
The World’s First Airport for Electric Aircraft
Governments around the world are scrambling to meet their carbon-zero goals by phasing out petrol and diesel-powered vehicles in favour of low and zero-emissions alternatives. But for initiatives like this to be successful, the infrastructures of towns and cities worldwide will need to change if they are to keep up with the pace.
New charging networks for electric vehicles, for example, will help quell range anxiety fears, while reimagined road networks will need to account for the higher volume of pedestrians and cyclists.
Of course, the other ideas that are surrounding the future of urban transport systems are not just on our streets: pioneers of electrification are now looking to the skies. And again: while airports that are purpose-built for electric aircraft—particularly drones and air taxis—may sound like something straight out of science fiction, it’s anything but.
Towards the end of January 2021, it was announced that a project focused on urban air mobility had been granted £1.2 million from the future flight challenge (a government-funded initiative) thanks to its potential to “holistically decarbonise transport”, as Air-One’s project partners put it, and ultimately reduce both congestion and air pollution.
Air-One is scheduled for completion by November 2021, and it is a collaboration between the UK government, private sector firms, and the aviation industry. It has been developed by Urban Air-Port—a subsidiary of ‘small’ (Six Miles Across London Limited)—in partnership with the Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group and Coventry City Council. The project is a proof-of-concept of a zero-emissions hub for future modes of air travel that will operate for just one month.
A digital mock-up of the Air-One site, on which sits a Hyundai electric VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft
Image credit: Hyundai Motor Group
Advancing eVTOL Aircraft
The project is focused on eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft, for which Air-One has been described as a fully operational hub.
“Cars need roads. Trains need rails. Planes need airports. eVTOLs will need Urban Air Ports,” said Ricky Sandhu, founder and executive chairman of Urban Air-Port. “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.”
Under the partnership, Hyundai will support the project as part of its plan to commercialise its own electric aircraft by 2028. The partnership reflects the fact that Hyundai recognises just how imperative it is to support the necessary infrastructure, so that technologies like eVTOLs can continue to develop and transform future mobility.
In terms of its size, AirOne is roughly 60% smaller than a traditional heliport, and sites can be installed within days as opposed to months. A total of 200 of these sites are planned for launch within the next five years.
And on top of all this, Hyundai reports that the Urban Air Ports will even be able to operate completely off-grid once they’re installed.