A new style of urban airport has opened for a trial in Coventry city centre today to showcase the potential future of electric aerial technology.
Called Air-One, the ‘vertiport’ has been 15 months in the making and is housed on a city council car park in Westminster Road and will demonstrate what a fully operational hub of its kind could look like.
The 18,300 sq ft facility, said to be a world first, will be used for so-called eVTOL vehicles – which stands for ‘electric vertical take-off and landing’ – such as air taxis and autonomous delivery drones.
There will also be retailers on site inside the airport to demonstrate how it can also generate revenue for operators.
The UK start-up company behind the initiative, London-based Urban-Air Port, said Air-One would show how advanced air mobility could cut congestion and air pollution and support a zero-carbon future, integrated with electric vehicles for sustainable public transport.
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Air-One will demonstrate aircraft command and control, eVTOL charging, cargo loading for unmanned drones and will host demonstrator flights with West Midlands Police and drone specialist Skyfarer among the first to use the site.
The launch is due to last at least a month and also forms part of Coventry’s City of Culture celebrations.
It is set to be a precursor for similar deployments elsewhere both in the UK and internationally, providing what the firm called “a blueprint for more than 200 sites” planned worldwide over the next five years to meet growing demand.
Urban-Air Port is working in partnership on the project with Coventry City Council, Coventry University, Munich Airport and Supernal which is part of global automotive giant Hyundai.
The company said the so-called advanced air mobility market was forecast to grow by nine per cent annually to reach around £780 billion over the next two decades but the lack of ground infrastructure was one of the single biggest impediments to this growth.
Looking ahead, the firm’s vertiports are designed to be used in four key areas – passenger air taxis, autonomous delivery drones, disaster emergency management and defence operations and logistics.
Ricky Sandhu, founder and executive chairman of Urban-Air Port, 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.
“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 MP, 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 opportunities in the Midlands.”
Following the programme in Coventry, Air-One will be moved to other locations in the UK and internationally to undertake a variety of demonstrations in different environments and settings.