UK Government to fund construction of pop-up ‘air taxi’ airport concept

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The UK Government is giving £1.2 million (US$1.65 million) to a startup to build a ‘pop-up’ urban airport for air taxis and drones that will be opened later this year.
According to the company behind the concept, Urban-Air Port, the Air-One will be the world’s first fully operational  ‘pop up’  airport and charging hub for future electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft – such as cargo drones and air taxis and will be built in Coventry, UK.
Following Air-One’s launch, the company plans to install more than 200 Urban Air Ports during the next five years in cities across the world. The company already has expressions of interest from several cities to build  Air-One type airports, it said.
Experts predict that the so-called “urban-air mobility” market – the use of autonomous and electric aircraft to carry goods and passengers around cities – could be worth hundreds of billions in the future. There are hundreds of projects developing drones and eVTOLs, but a lack of infrastructure has been identified by many, such as this 2019 NASA report, as a potential barrier to the establishment of such a market.

The Air-One airport in Coventry, UK is planned to be the first of 200 urban air ports to be built over the next five years (Image: Urban-Air Port)

Ricky Sandhu, founder and executive chairman of Urban-Air Port said,  “Cars need roads. Trains need rails. Planes need airports. eVTOLs will need Urban Air Ports. Over a hundred years ago, the world’s first commercial flight took off, creating the modern connected world. Urban Air Port will improve connectivity across our cities, boost productivity and help the UK to take the lead in a whole new clean global economy.”

“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.”

Billed as the world’s smallest airport, the Urban Air Port is 60% smaller than a heliport, can be powered off-grid and uses a modular design. The modular design and off-grid power supply enables the Urban Air Port to be built and dismantled quickly to suit changing market needs, or for them to be used to deploy humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

Industry backing

The Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group has also chosen Urban Air Port as its priority infrastructure partner to support its plans to create its own eVTOL aircraft and urban air mobility eco-system. Hyundai plans to commercialise its aircraft by 2028.

Pamela Cohn, chief operating officer for the Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group, said, “As we advance our eVTOL aircraft programme, development of supporting infrastructure is imperative. Air-One is  set to help lead the way in developing a robust, accessible and intermodal infrastructure network for future mobility.

“We are excited to be part of this partnership in the UK, and look forward to working together to create community impact and opportunity through safe, affordable, and human-centred mobility solutions.”

Trials and testing

The AIr-One site in Coventry will host live demonstrations of remote aircraft command and control, charging / refuelling and cargo and passenger loading for manned and unmanned eVTOL aircraft operating in three ways: passenger air taxi services, autonomous logistics and disaster emergency management

UK-based drone developer Malloy Aeronautics is a partner on the AIr-One project and will use it to demonstrate its large cargo drones. Oriol Badia, CEO of Malloy Aeronautics, said, “A key goal for Malloy is to introduce unmanned air logistics into an urban environment and merge it with supporting infrastructure that is flexible and resilient, hosting intelligent operating systems and innovation.

“Air-One provides the ability to service multiple transport requirements of the future – from disaster relief to essential and everyday supplies for citizens across the UK. These are truly exciting opportunities.”

The funding for AIr-One is part of the UK Government’s £125 million (US$171 million) Future Flight Challenge, which is funding projects to develop aviation infrastructure and systems that will enable the next generation of electric and autonomous air vehicles.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).