The world’s first flying taxi hub is taking shape in England for electric aircraft with take-off and vertical landing.
The English town of Coventry has had better days. Formerly known as the car city of the United Kingdom, the home of some 400,000 people in the Midlands of England has been revived after declining car production following widespread destruction due to World War II bombing.
This spring, however, Coventry is once again at the forefront of global innovation in personal mobility as it hosts what is considered the first fully functional hub for flying taxis, vertical take-off and electric-powered landing craft. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.
The location is fully functional, ie apart from the air taxis themselves. As dozens of proposed eVTOL models have not yet been approved for regulation, unmanned drones are being replaced by the usual five-person ship during three weeks of demonstration flights to Coventry.
However, everything is exactly as it will be when the first flying taxis hit the market in a few years, according to the hub’s developer, Urban-Air Port, a London-based startup that is leading development efforts on so-called competing vertiports. with British rival Skyports.
“We are here to show everyone what the future holds,” said Urban-Air Port founder and chief executive Ricky Sandhu.
“There’s no point in having new technologies if people don’t believe in them.”
Coventry is not London
The hub, located in a parking lot at a crowded intersection across the road from Coventry Main Station, does not make concessions to the futuristic vision of Jetsons-style travel, while the city itself is emblematic of Britain’s former industrial centers.
“Coventry is not London, and that’s important,” Sandhu said. “London is well served by public transport. Coventry and many other cities are not. ”
Around the hub are charging points for cars and electric scooters designed to allow passengers to easily move from one mode of travel to another.
The general message is clear. Flying taxis are not an exotic adventure, but a daily solution for decarbonizing travel between cities, which will be within the reach of many, costing almost as much as an airport limousine. The construction of the node will also be affordable, says Sandhu, starting at $ 6.1 million.
The Coventry base is built on a donut-shaped design, which Urban-Air Port considers to be the most efficient in cities, with a central helicopter-style landing platform, surrounded by an outer ring that houses check-in facilities. , a lounge before departure and the café.
The whole thing is only 46 meters in diameter, partly to fit in the crowded city centers, but also because the time between the arrival of a passenger and the embarkation of a flight is intended to be only 20 minutes. This requires a minimum waiting area, more comparable to a crowded cabin than a security queue at the airport.
And there is no room for the rows of shops that crowd most airport terminals. Instead, the centers will feature a small number of state-of-the-art retailers – clothing brands Anatomie and Paul & Shark and Italian winemaker Bottega are on display at Coventry – plus advertising screens that promote online shopping.
When their flights are ready, the passengers simply walk a few meters to the waiting boat, visible through the high glass walls to the ceiling in the center of the vertiport. Once they have boarded, the pad rises until it is level with the top of the building, allowing eVTOL to rise into the air and head for its destination.
Airlines have placed orders for hundreds of battery-powered boats, which have been on display at air shows. Although they are mostly intended for short trips, some can fly more than 160 km.
Investment for the future
Urban-Air Port aims to build 200 hubs over the next five years and offers five different models: the Air One passenger base on display in Coventry; a floating version of Marine One; Resilience One, which can be quickly assembled to provide disaster relief; City Box, for freight transport; and Docks Box, designed to be attached to the loading keys in warehouses and logistics centers.
The company says it is involved in 65 active programs around the world with real estate developers, city officials, airports, business centers, science parks, tourism businesses and government planners. It holds letters of intent and pre-orders for 13 vertiports worth about $ 73 million.
The company also has reserves for development, as the fundraiser is approaching £ 20 million from investors, including Hyundai, the developer of Supernal SA-1 eVTOL, whose large-scale model is on display in Coventry.
The project is also supported by the city council and government-funded research and innovation in the UK.
The UK is not only a world leader in eVTOL hubs, but also a major player in boat development, with Bristol, England – Vertical Aerospace Ltd. leading a crowded global domain with over 1,300 temporary orders won.
Virgin Atlantic Airways, which has signed for 150 VX4 aircraft from Vertical, says the compact geography of the UK and the large number of major cities and towns, combined with congested roads, make it an ideal test bed for new technology.
In addition to gaining public acceptance, which the Coventry experiment is designed to help address, flying taxis must be certified by aviation regulators. This could be challenging, given how different the eVTOLs are from most previous boats.
Integration into an urban network
The integration of air taxis into aviation networks is another obstacle. They could initially operate according to visual flight rules, as helicopters do now, and navigate using physical landmarks, but scenarios involving hundreds of boats landing at locations in a city would require much more complex control systems.
More than 10,000 ticket-only visitors have so far explored the Coventry hub since its opening on April 25, with thousands more stretching their necks to see the double-bed Malloy Aeronautics T150 drone soaring over the city.
Under a special exemption from the UK Civil Aviation Authority, this is the first time an unmanned craft of its size has ever flown in such a built environment. Sandhu says the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Industry visitors included representatives from Vertical Aerospace and its German rivals Lilium and Volocopter, Airbus and Boeing joint venture eVTOL, Wisk, as well as the discount airline EasyJet, Munich Airport and aerospace manufacturers BAE Systems and Leonardo.
The response from the public was “extraordinary”, with people generally enthusiastic about the project and even some skeptics being conquered, says Sandhu, citing a man employed in the local car industry who participated with his son.
“It was very negative at first,” says Sandhu. “But after half an hour of looking around and seeing a flight, he had completely changed his mind. Basically, a skeptic came and left converted. These are the people we have to convince. “