FLYING cars have come a step closer with the announcement of the world's first airport for such vehicles to be set up at Coventry in the West Midlands.
The Urban Air Port Air-One is the winner of the British government's Future Flight Challenge to develop aviation infrastructure and systems that enable the next generation of electric and autonomous air vehicles.
Air-Oneis a fully-operational hub for future electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft - such as cargo drones and air taxis - and will be launched later this year.
The project will bring industry, government and the public together to demonstrate how to unlock the potential of sustainable urban air mobility to reduce congestion, cut air pollution and decarbonise transport while providing passenger journeys and deliveries.
NASA predicts that urban-air mobility in the US alone could be worth up to £375 billion in the near-term and states that a significant barrier to market growth is the lack of infrastructure -an issue which the Urban Air Portwas established to resolve.
The Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group has chosen Urban Air Port as its priority infrastructure partner to support the global growth of this new sector.
The South Korean company plans to create its own eVTOL aircraft and support the broader urban air mobility eco-system.
Hyundai Motor Group is supporting the development of Air-Oneas part of its plan to commercialise its aircraft by 2028.
Urban Air Porthas been awarded a Â£1.2 million grant from UK Research and Innovation's Future Flight Challenge which is funded by Â£125 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and is expected to be matched by up to Â£175 million from industry.
Pamela Cohn, chief operating officer for the Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group, said:"As we advance our eVTOL aircraft programme, development of supporting infrastructure is imperative.
"Air-Oneis 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."
The footprint of an Urban Air Portis 60 per cent smaller than a traditional heliport and the sites can be installed in a matter of days, emit net zero carbon emissions and can be operated completely off-grid, meaning they do not always have to rely on a suitable grid connection.
The Urban Air Port is designed to support any eVTOL aircraft and complements other modes of sustainable transport as a hub for electric vehicles, buses or scooters.
The design enables such airportsto be moved easily to alternative sites and also means the sites are ideal for disaster emergency management, rapidly deploying drones and other eVTOLs to collect and transport emergency supplies, equipment and people where needed.
Urban Air Portchose Coventry for the first site due to its important location in the heart of the UK and because it is a historic hub for the automobile and aerospace industry, with a pool of people and skills that can support the manufacturing industries of the future.
The city's location also provides easy access within four hours to most parts of the country. In December 2020, Coventry was named the best UK town for electric cars.
Air-Onewill be unveiled during Coventry's UK city of culture celebrations in 2021 and continue to form part of the Commonwealth Games in 2022.2
Cllr Jim O'Boyle, Coventry City Council cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, said:"We are already a city that is helping to shape the future of electric transport and this is yet another ground-breaking project that puts Coventry at the forefront of new technologies.It highlights how the council is working alongside a range of organisations to help shape a better, greener future."
With research partners at Coventry University, Urban Air Portaims to further public understanding and acceptance of the new technology.
The Air-Onesite in Coventry will showcase live demonstrations of remote aircraft command and control, charging/refuelling and cargo and passenger loading for manned and unmanned eVTOL aircraft operating in three key markets: passenger air taxi services, autonomous logistics and disaster emergency management.