Resembling a futuristic circus tent from the outside, a new building in the U.K. is said to be the first of its kind on Earth: an airport for flying taxis.
Air-One, made by startup Urban-Air Port in connection with Coventry City Council, is a fully functioning “vertiport.” A sort of cross between a cab stand and a small airport, a vertiport has a rising platform to launch flying taxis and commercial drones. Although the term existed before, Air-One is the first fully-operational “pop-up” vertiport.
Advocates say it could serve as a blueprint for future vertiports, if this technology truly takes off.
“You’ll be using one of these to get an air taxi to another city, another town, another location very, very soon,” Ricky Sandhu, founder and executive chair of Urban-Air Port, told CTV News.
If an airport for flying taxis seems like it’s ahead of its time, well, technically, it is.
Air taxis are still in the testing phase, and need government approval before taking on passengers.
But the concept may be closer to reality than you think. Hyundai’s Supernal, a planned family of electric air vehicles, is hoping to take off in 2028.
“It is the future of a segment of aviation that is coming,” Michael Whitaker, chief commercial officer of Supernal, told CTV News. “It will be here by the end of this decade. And I think in the 2030s it will start to become ubiquitous.”
Although Supernal won’t be officially launching flying vehicles for a while, they are partnering with Urban-Air Port to showcase one of their models at the Air-One event this month. The Supernal S-A1 eVTOL will be on display until May 15 at Air-One.
When you hear the word “flying taxis,” you might picture a yellow sedan with its wheels replaced by propellers, or jet engines. But the flying taxis that are likely to hit the market in the next few years are all electric vertical take off (eVTOL) aircraft — more similar to helicopters than planes, but more eco-friendly.
Hyundai isn’t the only company eying the urban air mobility field, and some are even closer to launching their vehicles.
A German-made flying taxi, “Volocopter,” made its first crewed test flight last year in Paris, showcasing the success of its vertical takeoff and allowing manufacturers to test its noise emissions in an urban setting. The Volocopter was also on display in Rome last fall, and the company says its airborne cabs could be in service in 2024.
“Which, if you imagine right now, we’re in ’22, it’s only two years away,” Sandhu pointed out.
So while Coventry’s new vertiport has no vehicles set to launch right now, advocates say the time to prepare for tomorrow’s transportation is today.
“We are quite literally paving the way by putting the infrastructure in place,” Sandhu said.
Urban-Air Port is looking to build 200 of its vertiports around the world in the next five years. It’s already attracted nearly US$25 million in investment, including financial backing from one Canadian group — so the question still up in the air is whether any of these will be built here in Canada.