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Electric ‘Urban Air Port’ gets government backing

Image credit: Urban Air Port

Hyundai Motor Group, Coventry City Council and the UK government have partnered with Urban Air Port to launch the world’s first site to demonstrate the potential of urban air mobility.

Urban Air Port Air-One 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.

Urban Air Port Air-One is a world-first fully-operational hub for future electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, such as autonomous delivery drones and air taxis that could be transporting people and cargo across cities in the coming years. Air-One will be launched in Coventry later this year.

Urban Air Port could help to reduce congestion, cut air pollution and help achieve a zero carbon future. It can be integrated with electric vehicles and sustainable public transport. The company plans to install more than 200 zero-emission sites worldwide over the next five years in response to global demand.

The Air-One project will bring industry, government and the public together to unlock the potential of sustainable urban air mobility to reduce congestion, cut air pollution and decarbonise transport, whilst also facilitating passenger journeys and deliveries.

Nasa has predicted that urban-air mobility in the US alone could be worth up to $500bn (£375bn) in the near term and states that a significant barrier to market growth is the lack of infrastructure - an issue which Urban Air Port was 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 ecosystem. Hyundai Motor Group is supporting the development of Air-One as part of its plan to commercialise its aircraft by 2028.

Visual representation of the Air-One site with a Hyundai Motor Group eVTOL in the centre of Coventry

Image credit: Urban Air Port Ltd

Ricky Sandhu, founder and executive chairman of Urban Air Port, said: “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.

“Flying cars used to be a futuristic flight of fancy. Air-One will bring clean urban air transport to the masses and unleash a new airborne world of zero emission mobility.”

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-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.”

The physical footprint of an Urban Air Port is 60 per cent smaller than a traditional heliport (the closest directly comparable existing infrastructure). Using innovative construction methods, 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 electrical grid connection.

Gary Cutts, director of UK Research and Innovation's Future Flight Challenge, said: “Urban Air Port has the potential to revolutionise cities across the world, making them more connected, cleaner and accelerating our green economic recovery. This project epitomises the purpose of the Future Flight Challenge fund – it is innovation at its finest – and will help to position the UK at the vanguard of electric urban air mobility.”

Urban Air Port chose 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. Air-One will be unveiled during Coventry’s UK City of Culture celebrations in 2021 and will play an active part in the Commonwealth Games in 2022. Other UK cities have also expressed an interest in installing an Urban Air Port, according to the company.

Councillor 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.”

Urban Air Port has been awarded a £1.2m grant from UK Research and Innovation’s Future Flight Challenge. The programme is funded by £125 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and is expected to be matched by up to £175 million from industry.

Elsewhere in the aviation sector, the UK government has announced £84m-worth of grants for technology to power a green aviation revolution.

Three aerospace projects based in Bedford, Bristol, and Cranfield will share a total investment of £84.6m – half from the government, delivered through the ATI Programme, and half matched by industry.

Each project will use British innovation and expertise in green technology to power zero-emissions flights, using alternative energy sources of hydrogen or electricity to reduce the industry’s reliance on polluting fossil fuels.

Up to 4,750 design, engineering and manufacturing jobs could be secured, the government said.

Paul Scully, minister for business, said: "These trailblazing projects are broadening the horizons of future air travel, towards a greener future where we may be able to hail taxis from the sky rather than on our streets. This multi-million-pound boost will help to secure up to 4,750 jobs in these projects spanning the UK, and could pave the way to technological advances that will allow the industry to build back better and greener following the Covid-19 pandemic – and help tackle climate change."

The three projects receiving funding are:

  • GKN Aerospace-led project H2GEAR will receive a £27.2 million government grant to develop an innovative liquid hydrogen propulsion system (a component that propels the aircraft forward) for regional air travel, which could be scaled up for larger aircraft and longer journeys.
  • ZeroAvia’s HyFlyer II will receive a £12.3 million government grant to scale up its zero-emissions engines for demonstration on a 19-seater aircraft, showcasing its significant technological advances, meaning that customers can expect to fly on zero-emissions aircraft as early as the end of 2023.
  • InCEPTion, led by Blue Bear Systems Research, is receiving a £2.8 million government grant to develop a fully-electrified zero-emissions propulsion system for aircraft, that is powerful, quiet and efficient and could be used for smaller aircraft travelling short distances – even within the same city.

A consultation on the Aviation Decarbonisation Strategy is due later this year, as part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution, with jet zero and low carbon aviation as a key pillar to building back greener.

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