The first airport for flying cars will open in Coventry later this year in a partnership between Hyundai, a UK developer and the UK government agencies.
Urban Air Port, a UK company set up in 2019 by former Foster & Partners architect Ricky Sandhu, will receive a £1.2mln grant after being chosen as the winner of UK Research and Innovation’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, as the site is to be known, aims to be the world’s first fully-operational hub for future electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, including air taxis and cargo drones.
The company says the physical footprint of its sites is 60% smaller than a traditional heliport and thanks to “innovative construction” can be installed in a matter of days with zero carbon emissions.
Hyundai Motor Company, which has previously set out plans to invest US$1.5bn over the next five years to create its first eVTOL vehicles, has been calling for the necessary ground infrastructure for these vehicles.
The South Korean carmaker’s Urban Air Mobility division has teamed up with Urban Air Port as its “priority infrastructure partner” to support the growth of this new sector, Urban Air Port said.
It added that Hyundai is “supporting the development” of the Coventy Air-One site, with the location chosen for the first site due to its Midlands location and its history as a hub for the automobile and aerospace industry.
The midlands city was last month named the best mainland location in the UK for electric cars, based on its strong ratio of charging points per plug-in car.
Pamela Cohn, operations chief for Hyundai’s Urban Air Mobility division, 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.”
Sandhu, who is the founder and executive chairman of Urban Air Port, a wholly-owned subsidiary of his Six Miles Across London Ltd (small) architecture agency, said: “Cars need roads. Trains need rails. Planes need airports. eVTOLs will need Urban Air Ports.”
He added: “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.”
Hyundai last year showed off a four-passenger flying taxi concept in partnership with Uber and aims to have a range of flying cars that to carry people within metropolitan areas and bigger versions to fly between cities, but does not expect to enter the market until 2028.
But the first flying car has already hit the road, the PAL-V Liberty autogyro, which made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in 2018 and is meant to be starting full production in India this year.
Morgan Stanley has had difficulty predicting how big the flying car market could grow, with its forecasts ranging from US$2.9trn down to $615bn by 2040.
Also working on the Coventry project are two other of Sandhu’s companies: Urban.AV, in partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council, and Urban.MASS, partnered with Shildon in the Northern PowerHouse, along with design firm Arup and Partners and electric charging providers and other manufacturers.