Flying cabs are a step closer to reality following the successful trial 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 was named by creator, Urban-Air Port, was located in the heart of Coventry in the UK and, with the backing of the British government and US eVTOL manufacturer, Supernal, was operational for a month.
Crime-fighting police drones and heavy cargo delivery drones the size of a single bed were among the vehicles to fly from the site during the trial, which Urban-Air boldly claims has launched the dawn of a new age of zero-emission, low-congestion urban transport.
It has even gone on record as stating that the trial has provided the blueprint for more than 200 planned vertiports across the globe over the next five years to meet the anticipated demand for the new form of transport.
According to Urban-Air Port, 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.
Urban-Air Port’s executive chairman, Ricky Sandhu, says that the success of the trial shows that the lack of ground infrastructure for eVTOLs would no longer prove to be the biggest single barrier to their growth and development.
Indeed, Sandu believes that purpose-built ground infrastructure like Air-One – equipped with their own revenue generating retail and F&B facilities – can unleash the potential of AAM to decarbonise transport and cut air pollution and congestion, whilst providing seamless passenger journeys and deliveries.
He said: “Air-One was 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.
“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.”
Munich Airport had a vested interest in the success of the UK trial as the gateway’s international business subsidiary, Munich Airport International (MAI,) had previously agreed to work in close co-operation with Urban-Air Port on the launch of Air-One.
MAI, for example, believes that Air-One could become a blueprint for future vertiport deployments in multiple environments and settings.
Dr Ralf Gaffal, CEO of MAI, said: “A few years ago, advanced air mobility was just a vision. Today, with Urban-Air Port’s efforts, we are taking a giant step towards making it a reality with significant implications for the transport and logistics sector worldwide.
“As an innovative mobility concept, it also has the potential to directly connect rural regions and remote places with airports and, last but not least, to decongest public transport in megacities.
“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.”
Elsewhere in Europe, Aeroporti di Roma’s chief aviation officer, Ivan Bassato, says that the airport operator remains very interested in the eVTOL concept, and that it has considered using the rooftop of a multi-storey car park at Rome Fiumicino as one possible location for its very own vertiport.
Bassato believes that eVTOL vehicles could initially provide a “premium service” for customers travelling between Fiumicino and the surounding region. Key ADR shareholder, Atlantia, has shares in urban air mobility company, Volocopter.