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Hyundai-backed Urban Air Port has been selected as a winner of the UK government’s Future Flight Challenge to develop aviation infrastructure and systems that enable the next generation of electric and autonomous air vehicles. Air-One is the name of its first fully-operational hub for future electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft – such as cargo drones and air taxis.

It will be launched in the British city of Coventry later in 2021.

Ricky Sandhu is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Urban Air Port. “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,” he explains.

Sandhu has over 20 years’ experience working with some of the world’s most advanced and cutting edge design and technology companies, including architects Foster + Partners. He also has extensive experience working on large scale urban transformation programmes, including the UK’s first net-zero charging station for electric vehicles in Essex. 

“My six-mile commute across London is a stark reminder of air pollution in our cities, one third of which comes directly from transportation. By removing the constraints of advanced mobility, whether that be by air, land or water, we can create a far brighter, healthier and more sustainable future for all.” 

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Sandhu says that several cities across the UK, and many more around the globe, have expressed interest in installing an Urban Air Port due to an increased demand for advanced mobility infrastructure.

“We plan to roll out 200 Urban Air Ports across the world over the next five years. Our site in Coventry will become the first place in the world to pioneer the air mobility ecosystem by demonstrating vital Air-One infrastructure and establishing new unmanned traffic corridors.” 

Urban Air Port has also received backing from Hyundai Motor Group’s Urban Air Mobility Division. The South Korean company is supporting the development of Air-One as part of its plan to commercialise its own eVTOL aircraft by 2028.

Pamela Cohn, Chief Operating Officer for the Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group, says: “As we advance our eVTOL aircraft programme, development of supporting infrastructure is imperative. Air-One is a unique project that 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.”

Malloy Aeronautics, a UK-based drone developer, logistics and engineering company, is Urban Air Port’s UK drone aircraft partner. The company’s large cargo drones will be demonstrated at the Air-One site.

Oriol Badia, CEO of Malloy Aeronautics, comments: “It is a key goal for Malloy – 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 state of the art 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 especially with a strong partnership between Malloy and Urban Air Port – thus unifying serviceability and operability, forming a turnkey product.”

Sadhu explains that Urban Air Ports will provide an infrastructure that will support cargo and freight companies in their transition to net-zero.

“They will be able to transport their goods across cities, using large cargo drones while significantly reducing their carbon emissions and overall congestion. Advanced mobility is one of the most efficient and innovative ways for cargo and freight companies to operate in a net zero economy,” he says. 

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Air-One will welcome the public to come and experience the process of boarding an eVTOL.

For Sandhu, safety and reassuring the public is of the utmost importance to the development of its sites.

He tells us: “We want to help create safe, connected and clean cities across the world. Safety of our customers, staff and OEM is paramount. It is built into all we do. Air-One will be fully certified to land and take off. The vehicle partners are experts in their field – Hyundai is the fifth largest OEM and its expertise and experience is a huge asset for us, especially when it comes to impeccable safety.

“The Air-One site in Coventry will bring government, industry and the public together to demonstrate how to unlock the potential of safe and sustainable urban air mobility to significantly cut congestion and air pollution from passenger and cargo transport,” he adds.

Along with VIPs, city authorities and investors, students from around the UK will be invited to visit Air-One to stimulate their awareness of STEM and inspire them to help create a brighter and more sustainable future.  

“We are partnered with Coventry University, a leader in human factors, who will be supporting public perception stakeholder engagement. Air-One will welcome the public to come and experience the process of boarding an eVTOL, get close to the different eVTOLS and ‘kick the tyres’ as it were. Air-One will also include a passenger lounge, fulfilment centre and vehicle maintenance and charging areas plus an air traffic control.”

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In the mind of the public, flying cars remain a futuristic flight of fancy. But they could become a commercial reality very soon. NASA predicts that urban-air mobility in the U.S. alone could be worth up to $500 billion (£375 billion) in the near-term and states that a significant barrier to market growth is the lack of infrastructure. That’s an issue which Urban Air Port was established to resolve.

“Urban air mobility has significant potential that has yet to be explored. With the right infrastructure in place, we expect that will play a vital role in everyday life for many people around the world by 2030,” concludes Sandhu.  

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