UK start-up Urban-Air Port has partnered with automaker Hyundai to build 65 mini airports worldwide that are designed for a new generation of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) passenger vehicles.
Often described as flying taxis, eVTOLs are typically small electric planes or larger drone-inspired vehicles that are designed to carry a small number of passengers relatively short distances.
German firm Volocopter plans to introduce a service in Paris by the time it holds the Olympics in 2024, while aircraft-leasing company Avolon issued a $2bn order in June for 500 eVTOLs – also with a 2024 commercial service launch date in mind.
Urban-Air Port said that the burgeoning eVTOL sector currently lacks the infrastructure needed to support the vehicles and could be a major block on market growth. Only 3 per cent of the investment so far this year ($150m) has been targeted towards the physical infrastructure.
It aims to establish a global network of urban-air ports with plans to build 200 sites globally in the next five years.
Investment in the sector has grown substantially this year, with $4.7bn announced thus far for the development of eVTOL vehicles.
Urban-Air Port said it will unveil the world’s first fully operational urban-air port – named Air-One – in Coventry early next year.
Ricky Sandhu, Urban-Air Port founder, said: “The sector is soaring and we know that a future with electric flying vehicles and drones in cities is going to be a reality soon.
“But it can’t happen if we don’t have the infrastructure on the ground and in the air to make it happen. Urban-Air Port will change the way we travel forever – unlocking clean urban-air transport for everyone, improving connectivity in congested cities, cutting pollution and boosting productivity.”
The start-up has created “modular hubs” that have been designed with compact environments in mind. Both maintenance and charging for eVTOLs are able to take place on-site and the design should enable them to be located in dense urban areas and remote locations.
This design, which is easily manoeuvrable, also means the sites are ideal for disaster emergency management, such as natural disasters.
Minister for aerospace, Paul Scully, said: “The government-backed Urban-Air Port heralds a new, convenient and sustainable way to travel within the UK, improving connectivity between cities, while helping us to build back greener.
“The UK is at the cutting-edge of new technologies in the pursuit of a net-zero economy by 2050. Making sure that the infrastructure exists for these new modes of transport is key to making zero-emission urban flight an everyday reality.”
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