UK-based developer of ground infrastructure for air taxis and autonomous delivery drones Urban-Air Port opens Air-One, a world-first demonstration of a fully-operational hub for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles – such as air taxis – and autonomous cargo drones, on 25 April 2022, preparing for a new age of zero-emission, low-congestion urban transport.
Air-One will operate in the heart of Coventry for at least one month. It provides a blueprint for more than 200 vertiports planned worldwide by Urban-Air Port over the next five years to meet growing demand, says the company press release.
Air-One aims to 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.
Urban-Air Port is backed by the UK Government and supported by US service provider Supernal. The company plans to develop 200 vertiports worldwide, and the company’s order book for additional sites is growing, with vertiports already planned in the UK in the West Midlands and London, and internationally in the United States (Los Angeles), Australia, South Korea, France, Germany, Scandinavia and South East Asia.
Air-One plans to demonstrate aircraft command and control, eVTOL charging, cargo loading for unmanned drones, and will host demonstrator flights. West Midlands Police and Skyfarer will be among the first to operate flights from the site, showcasing how Urban-Air Port’s vertiports can provide drone bases for “sky protection” and high-value cargo deliveries in the near future. Flights of large cargo drones will also be demonstrated by UK-based drone developer, Malloy Aeronautics – the first time a drone of this size has flown in such a dense and built-up urban environment. 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. A series of public engagement events at Air-One will also bring future air mobility to life for the public and form part of Coventry’s City of Culture celebrations, says the press release.
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 user-centred design expertise. Researchers have worked to ensure Air-One’s design is accessible, easy to navigate and a pleasure to use, and Coventry University will continue to collaborate with Urban Air Port to further public understanding and acceptance of the new technology.
As announced in October 2021, Urban-Air Port and the international business division of Munich Airport will closely cooperate on the launch of Air-One. This partnership will help ensure that the vertiport project becomes a blueprint for future vertiport deployments in multiple environments and settings.
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. A series of public engagement events at Air-One will bring future air mobility to life for the public and form part of Coventry’s City of Culture celebrations.
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.
Urban-Air Port’s 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.
The advanced air mobility (AAM) market is set to take off, with forecasted growth of 9% annually to reach USD USD1 trillion within the next two decades. 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.
Ricky Sandhu, Founder and Executive Chairman of Urban-Air Port said: “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.”
Minister for Aviation, Robert Courts, said: “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.”
Air-One is a 1700 square meter, prefabricated vertiport designed for both rapid assembly and disassembly. A central 17m diameter aircraft carrier – the largest of its kind in the world on-shore – serves as the FATO (Final Approach and Take-off) 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. On display inside Air-One is a full-sized model of Supernal’s initial concept vehicle, S-A1, as well as electric vehicles. Drone demonstrations will be conducted throughout Air-One’s entire stay in Coventry. Air-One is located at Westminster Car Park, in the centre of Coventry (CV1 3fZ). Members of the public interesting in attending can sign up for tickets at www.urbanairport.com/aironeevent.
(Image: Lucy Ray)
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