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The world's first urban airport dedicated to cargo drones and air taxis was launched in the city of Coventry, UK. Called "Air One," the project is being undertaken by Urban-Air Port, a company that provides urban-air mobility infrastructure as a service.
The construction has already started by Sir Robert Alpine Ltd. and will include a steel frame dome with a 46 meters diameter covered with tensile fabric. Other features of Air One include an air taxi passenger lounge space, a control office, a logistics area, and a security and disaster management area.
The project is funded by a €1.2m grant by the UK Research and Innovations Future Flight Challenge and it is expected to be completed by April 2022.
The airport is designed to support any electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and serve as a hub for other sustainable modes of transport like electric vehicles (EVs), electric buses, electric cars, scooters, etc.
The modular design of urban airports enables them to be easily dismantled and relocated at other sites when needed. They can be used for disaster management by facilitating the rapid deployment of drones and other eVTOLs for collecting and transporting emergency supplies, equipment, and people.
Air One project will work to demonstrate how to unlock the prospects of sustainable air mobility to reduce congestion, reduce air pollution and cut carbon emissions in transport.
Coventry was chosen as it is located in the heart of the UK and the city is the center of the automobile and aerospace industry with added benefits of highly skilled workers in the region.
In its future plans of commercializing its first eVTOL aircraft by 2028, Hyundai Motor Group has selected Urban-Air Port as a priority infrastructure partner to support the global growth of the new Urban Air Mobility (UAM) sector.
Advantages of urban airports:
1) Physical footprint of an urban airport is 60% lesser than a traditional heliport.
2) The sites can be installed in just a few days and can be operated completely off the grid.
3) Emit net-zero carbon emissions.
Having secured funding for Air One, the company now plans to develop more than 200 sites worldwide in the next five years and is in discussions with investors for further collaborations.
Urban air mobility is being seen as a future option for affordable, rapid, and sustainable travel addressing both congestion and environmental issues.
NASA has predicted that urban air mobility in the US could alone be worth up to $500 billion, and the major reason slowing the market growth is the lack of infrastructure, which Urban-Air Port was established to resolve.