British Indian entrepreneur Ricky Sandhu is celebrating what he describes as firing the starting gun for futuristic transport as the UK’s first mini-airport, or vertiport, recently opened for public demonstrations.
Ricky Sandhu, Founder and Executive Chairman of Urban-Air Port, said the opening of Air-One in Coventry, central England, is a momentous moment for Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) vehicles such as air taxis and autonomous cargo drones. Air-One, which is open for demonstrations in Coventry until the middle of May, is expected to provide a blueprint for more than 200 vertiports planned worldwide by Urban-Air Port over the next five years.
Sandhu 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.
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“Cars have roads. Trains have rails. Planes have airports. Now, eVTOLs have an Urban-Air Port. 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.”
Urban-Air Port is backed by the UK government and supported by Hyundai’s Supernal, a US-based smart vehicles service provider. Air-One is designed to demonstrate how purpose-built ground infrastructure can unleash the potential of advanced air mobility, or AAM for short, to decarbonise transport and cut air pollution and congestion, whilst providing seamless passenger journeys and deliveries.
“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,” said Robert Courts, UK Minister for Aviation.
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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. Urban-Air Port said it is accelerating its plans to develop 200 similar “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 serves as a valuable, tangible asset to helping build stakeholder confidence and trust in emerging mobility technology and supporting systems,” said Mike Whitaker, Chief Commercial Officer of Supernal.
“The Coventry demonstration is an important first step forward to reimagining how people across the world will move, connect and live. Developing a scalable system to support advanced air mobility operations requires collaboration from all industries and corners of the world. Supernal’s support of Urban-Air Port reinforces our belief in fusing technology and innovation to enable humanity and society to reach new levels of potential,” said Whitaker.
During the course of the next few weeks, Air-One will 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.
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Flights of large cargo drones will also be demonstrated by UK-based drone developer Malloy Aeronautics, reportedly 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 is envisioned as bringing future air mobility to life for the public and form part of Coventry’s City of Culture celebrations.