World’s first operational hub for eVTOL aircraft opens in UK
Flying taxis are a step closer to reality today following the opening of the world’s first fully operational demonstration hub for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles such as air taxis and autonomous cargo drones.
Air-One, as it has been named by creator, Urban-Air Port, is located in the heart of Coventry in the UK and, with the backing of the British government and US eVTOL manufacturer Supernal, will be operational for at least one month.
Crime-fighting police drones and heavy cargo delivery drones the size of a single bed will be among the first vehicles to fly from the site, whose opening Urban-Air boldly claims heralds a new age of zero-emission, low-congestion urban transport.
It notes that the Air-One will provide a blueprint for more than 200 vertiports planned worldwide by Urban-Air Port over the next five years to meet growing demand.
According to the company, the advanced air mobility (AAM) market is set to take off, with forecasted growth of 9% annually to reach $1 trillion within the next two decades.
However, it says that NASA analysis shows that 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.
Air-One, insists founder and executive chairman of Urban-Air Port, Ricky Sandhu, 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.
Sandhu said: “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.
“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 15 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.”
The UK’s Minister for Aviation, Robert Courts, said: “British innovation has a rich history of transforming global transportation, from the creation of the railroads in the 1800s, to the growth of great British brands such as Jaguar, Triumph and Rover in the 1950s.
“The opening of Air-One, backed by government funding, will revolutionise the way people and goods travel across the nation.
“This step forward puts Britain at the vanguard of clean transport, bringing investment and high-skilled, green job opportunities to the nation, while levelling up opportunity in the Midlands.”
Mike Whitaker, chief commercial officer of Supernal, said: “Air-One serves as a valuable, tangible asset to helping build stakeholder confidence and trust in emerging mobility technology and supporting systems.
“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.”
As announced in October 2021, Urban-Air Port and the international business division of Munich Airport will closely co-operate on the launch of Air-One.
This partnership, it is claimed, will help ensure that the vertiport project becomes a blueprint for future vertiport deployments in multiple environments and settings.
Dr Ralf Gaffal, managing director at Munich Airport International, said: “A few years ago, Air Mobility was just a vision. Today, with Urban-Air Port’s efforts, we are taking a giant step towards making it a reality.
“We at Munich Airport International see enormous potential in this new, immensely versatile mode of transportation. Partnering with Urban-Air Port has allowed us to join forces in designing, implementing and operating scalable and sustainable vertiports around the world.”
Coventry was chosen for the site due to its location in the heart of the UK – with most parts of the country within four hours of travel – and its historic leadership in the automobile and aerospace industries.
Following the programme in Coventry in Summer 2022, Urban-Air Port will redeploy Air-One to other locations in the UK and internationally to undertake a variety of demonstrations in different environments and settings, establishing the global standard for ground infrastructure.