Coventry, England will be the site of the first ever electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) airport in the world. Dubbed as Air-One, the facility is projected to open later this year. The project is a joint venture between South Korean multinational automotive manufacturer Hyundai, SMALL (Six Miles Across London Limited), Urban-Air Port (UAP) Ltd, in coordination with the United Kingdom government and the Coventry City Council.
While vehicle development in the eVTOL sector is currently underway, advances in ground infrastructure remain to be deficient. Besides the absence of prescriptive regulations, it is one of the biggest constraints on the emerging sector. Hyundai and Urban-Air Port’s collaboration aims to create an innovative hub for eVTOLs such as air taxis and delivery drones produced by companies like Astro Aerospace (OTC:ASDN), which will enable future mobility and expand access to transportation services in urban communities.
Urban-Air Port was selected as the winner in the UK Research and Innovation’s Future Flight Challenge, a government program aiming to develop zero-emission air vehicles. The £1.2 million ($1.65 million) grant, combined with £175 million ($244 million) from industry, will go a long way in funding the temporary installation of the eVTOL airport in Coventry City. Air-One is going to be the smallest airport in the world.
Building the Coventry Vertiport
Focusing on efficiency and multifunctionality, Air-One will have a minimal physical footprint, about 60% smaller than a conventional heliport. As with any future Urban Air Port, it will stand on an elevated surface, with integrated hangars underneath. Once an aircraft lands, the site will be lowered for charging and maintenance, freeing up the area for the next landing vehicle. The structure is also said to include passenger areas, complete with checkpoints and lounges.
According to Hyundai, the site can be installed in a matter of days and can be operated even in the remote parts of the world. This means Air-One do not have to rely on a suitable grid connection for it to function. UAP even released a rendered video of the dome structure constructed smack in the center of a plain in Rwanda, Africa showing how the Air-One design is modular enough to be relocated anywhere.
The pop up infrastructure will be built in an area near the A444 highway and Coventry Arena tube station. The landing platform is about 40 meters (131 ft) in diameter with conical covers. Underneath, it will have charging facilities and parking spaces for vehicles between missions. The site may also have provisions for cargo loading and logistics. An underpass will serve as a link to foot and vehicle traffic across the other side of the freeway.
Not Just for eVTOLs
Designed to accommodate not only eVTOL aircrafts, Air One will also be a hub for other modes of sustainable transport. It can support electric buses and passenger cars, as well as a scooter, providing an integrated approach to city decarbonization. The infrastructure is also an ideal site for disaster management as it can quickly deploy drones to gather and transport emergency supplies and equipment, even people, to desired locations.
Air One will also be used to exhibit the full potential of the sustainable urban air mobility (UAM) in the United Kingdom and beyond. Starting November, it is set to host live demonstrations to showcase the potentials of eVTOLs for passenger transport, autonomous logistics and disaster management. Hyundai and UAP are planning to invest in the development of a full-scale prototype for the said demos, with two cities having already signed on their support.
The live demonstrations will display Air-One’s capacity in command and control of remote aircrafts, charging and refueling, and finally, passenger loading. The last is applicable for both manned and unmanned eVTOLs operating in key markets. As UAP’s aircraft partner, UK-based drone developer Malloy Aeronautics, will be supplying its fleet of large cargo drones for the said demonstrations.
Big Plans for the Future
Paving the way for improved city connectivity, the Air-One Urban Air Port is expected to help the United Kingdom to take the lead in creating a whole new clean economy. However, the Coventry hub is just the start of a bigger, more ambitious endeavor. UAP is optimistic that Air-One will bring clean urban air transport to the public and steer future development of an intermodal infrastructure network for zero-emission mobility.
The company has also revealed plans to develop 200 more port sites for eVTOLs over the next five years, not only in the United Kingdom, but worldwide, in response to the rising demand. Cities across the globe have already communicated their interest in the installation of an Urban Air Port in their areas. UAP is also looking forward to securing more investors to support its global growth.
Meanwhile, Hyundai announced its plans to invest around $1.5 billion in urban air mobility by creating more aircrafts and supporting mobility systems for UAM operations. The Air-One project is part of the company’s plans to commercialize its air vehicles by 2028. Hyundai aims to introduce its cargo UAM aircraft to the market by 2026, while its air taxi will be deployed two years after.
Other Vertiports in the Works
The Coventry Urban Air Port is not the only infrastructure being built for the emerging eVTOL industry. American multinational engineering firm AECOM has recently announced its plans to design a network of vertiports in Florida. The project will be in partnership with Ferrovial, a Spanish multinational infrastructure developer. The first location for the vertiport network is expected to be announced this spring.
Ferrovial is also working with German aviation company Lilium in developing the Florida vertiport infrastructure. The plan is to construct at least 10 vertiports connecting key locations in major cities in the said state. The design will put emphasis on efficiency and sustainability, utilizing Florida’s natural elements. Noise abatement materials and surfaces are said to be some of the key features in the airfield design.
The Florida vertiport will contain terminal buildings to facilitate quick journeys while prioritizing passenger comfort. Just like with the Coventry infrastructure, it will contain facilities necessary to accommodate electric aircrafts like landing areas, recharging pods and departure structures. Once launched, it will help enable an affordable and eco-friendly alternative transport system in Florida and surrounding areas.