Aircraft

Hyundai to build "world's first" eVTOL airport in Coventry this year

Hyundai to build "world's firs...
The "smallest airport in the world," dedicated to eVTOL air taxis and drone operations, will open in Coventry later this year
The "smallest airport in the world," dedicated to eVTOL air taxis and drone operations, will open in Coventry later this year
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The "smallest airport in the world," dedicated to eVTOL air taxis and drone operations, will open in Coventry later this year
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The "smallest airport in the world," dedicated to eVTOL air taxis and drone operations, will open in Coventry later this year
The oversized landing pad lifts and lowers, giving safe access to flight lounges, charging and maintenance areas
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The oversized landing pad lifts and lowers, giving safe access to flight lounges, charging and maintenance areas
The Coventry facility will open later in 2021, despite the lack of current eVTOL aircraft approved for urban operations
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The Coventry facility will open later in 2021, despite the lack of current eVTOL aircraft approved for urban operations
The site currently stands as a supplementary car park for the nearby Ricoh Arena
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The site currently stands as a supplementary car park for the nearby Ricoh Arena
Building an air taxi facility without any air taxis is certainly a bold move
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Building an air taxi facility without any air taxis is certainly a bold move
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Hyundai is serious about its eVTOL air taxi division, and has partnered with the UK Government, the Coventry City Council and Urban Air Port (UAP) to open a dedicated eVTOL and drone launch facility – the "world's smallest airport," in England later this year.

Yes, this year: 2021. A year in which the projected number of commercially operational eVTOL air taxis currently stands at zero. Indeed, we're likely looking at 2024-25 at the absolute earliest before the first tentative pilot programs go live and start carrying passengers around. Hyundai itself is estimating more like 2028.

So as we all wait for eVTOLs to get their act together, this platform, replete with a set of spectator bleachers, will spend most of its time gently depreciating in the famous English rain, interrupted by occasional technology demonstrations by cargo drone companies like Malloy Aeronautics, which has pledged to make some public flights from the site.

The infrastructure in question will be built by UAP on a thin wedge of land just over the A444 highway from the Ricoh Arena and Coventry Arena tube station. It's described as a "pop-up" piece of modular architecture that can be lifted and shifted as necessary. The retractable landing platform itself is 40 meters (131 ft) in diameter, bigger than the largest H3 helipads, so it can certainly accommodate choppers if necessary. Conversely, UAP says "the physical footprint of an Urban Air Port® is 60% smaller than a traditional heliport" – a statement we find odd considering that the landing pad is considerably larger, and it's surrounded by an even larger cone.

The site currently stands as a supplementary car park for the nearby Ricoh Arena
The site currently stands as a supplementary car park for the nearby Ricoh Arena

Beneath the conical covers radiating out from the landing zone, it'll be equipped with charging facilities, although exactly what it's got in that department is yet to be specified. Certainly, eVTOL charging will have to be incredibly fast and powerful once these things are flying bulk passenger missions, but given that this is so far off, it might as well just have standard wall plugs to start with.

Other features that allegedly make this jigger superior to a flat piece of concrete appear to include passenger lounges with cafes and bars, and what appear to be maintenance and parking spaces for the aircraft between missions. There may be cargo loading and logistics facilities. In the Coventry installation, there will also be an underpass built to link foot and vehicle traffic across to the other side of the freeway, as well as taxi dropoff-pickup arrangements – but you better believe UAP will happily build you one on a floating platform, or on top of a skyscraper, if you like.

The latter would appear to raise some issues. If that landing pad is 40 meters across, then the entire structure is somewhere around double that. Good luck finding a skyscraper with an 80-meter (262 ft) diameter clear circle on top of it big enough to plonk one of these things on.

UAP founder and Executive Chairman Ricky Sandhu is keen to avoid the term "vertiport" when referring to eVTOL stations, claiming he doesn't understand what it means. "It's called the Urban Air Port because we didn't really like the term 'vertiport.' We didn't really understand what it meant. With all the different types of vehicles, we thought this infrastructure is actually a mini airport ... It is an airport. People have to board and de-board. You have to process passengers. You have to land aircraft. You have to maintain them, charge them. We thought Urban Air Port is a better term."

The oversized landing pad lifts and lowers, giving safe access to flight lounges, charging and maintenance areas
The oversized landing pad lifts and lowers, giving safe access to flight lounges, charging and maintenance areas

So it seems UAP wishes to force this new mode of transport into the ugly and awkward mold of today's air travel, rather than having these things operate as the magical sky Ubers we're all envisaging. The idea of adding "passenger processing" to the daily commute gives the entire idea of air taxi commuting a nasty smell; how often would you take a train if you had to go through all the crap you're put through at an airport?

And indeed, why do we need a fancy structure like this at all? Cargo drones and eVTOLs alike can take off and land on more or less any flat bit of ground. Raising them up like this might keep people from running underneath them when they're coming in to land, but so would a fence, or basic survival instinct. Lifting and lowering that landing pad every time a bird leaves or lands will look cool, but is it necessary?

Color us skeptical about the utility of this whole thing, as well as the thoroughly befuddling timing of the project, but either way, Hyundai and UAP have talked £1.2 million (US$1.64 million) out of the UK Government's Future Flight Challenge program and it's scheduled to fling its doors open later this year.

UAP says its design is flat-packable and modular enough to be deployed in remote parts of Africa, where it can democratize fast, convenient transport. The company goes so far as to show a rendered video of one of these stylish domes being erected in the middle of a vast plain in Rwanda and becoming the beating heart of a thriving transport hub that "spreads social equity," and connects and elevates sub-Saharan Africa like never before. You sure can't accuse these guys of lacking vision.

Meet Ricky Sandhu in the video below.

Urban Air-Port

Source: Hyundai / Urban Air Ports

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7 comments
Towerman
Now THIS is how you flame on the unstoppable coming revolution. We have an EVTOL airport which is going to spread all over the globe, there is NO excuse holding back, build those EVTOL's and lets get the air crowded already ! ! ! Well done for taking this historic step Hyundai ! ! !
Username
I've never seen a taxi stand that could only accommodate one taxi at a time before.
Towerman
@username
simple, build a row of them spaced out over any distance required.
KennethGreenblatt
EHang has commercially operated VTOLS (Tourism only so far) in a few countries
Username
@Towerman, There is no room in what is depicted for your solution.
Towerman
@Username, That does not mean it can be created, creating an elevated pod for this structure is very basic and simple, so it's a great concept that will definitely work in more than one way.
Towerman
@KennethGreenblatt
Indeed ! They have been taking the world by storm and if they keep going like they do now, they will be within the top 3 companies providing sustained commercial operations within the next 3-5 years, Again Well done Ehang ! !