Some news in the world of flying cars – the United Kingdom has selected Urban Air Port as a winner of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Future Flight Challenge, a competition that funds next-generation aviation infrastructure and systems. The company, which is backed by Hyundai, will partner with the British government to build an air transport hub, Air-One, in Coventry with the support of the local city council.

When it is launched later this year, the facility will be the world’s first fully-operational hub for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft such as air taxis and cargo drones. The project is aimed at bringing industry, government and the public together to showcase the potential of sustainable urban air mobility in reducing congestion, pollution and carbon footprint of transport.

By winning the challenge, Urban Air Port receives a £1.2 million (RM6.7 million) grant from UKRI. The challenge is bankrolled by the Industrial Supply Challenge Fund to the tune of £125 million (RM697 million) – a figure which is expected to be matched up to £175 million (RM976 million) by industry.

Hyundai’s Urban Air Mobility Division chose Urban Air Port as its priority infrastructure partner to support the growth of this nascent sector. The South Korean giant intends to build its own eVTOL aircraft and support the ecosystem; it’s backing the development of Air-One as part of its plan to commercialise its aircraft by 2028.

Compared to a conventional heliport, an Urban Air Port’s physical footprint is 60% smaller, making it suitable for urban environments. Thanks to new construction methods, the sites can also be installed in days, emit net zero carbon emissions and operate completely off-grid, so they can be located in remote areas.

Urban Air Port also claims it can provide an integrated approach to city decarbonation, as its facilities support any eVTOL aircraft and complement other modes of sustainable transport, further functioning as a hub for electric vehicles, buses and scooters.

The design also enables them to be easily moved to alternative sites as the sector develops, with an added benefit of being ideal for disaster emergency management – drones and other eVTOLs can be rapidly deployed to collect and transport emergency supplies, equipment and personnel when needed.

Aside from Coventry, the company plans to develop more than 200 sites in the next five years to meet anticipated global demand, with cities across the UK and globally already expressing interest. Having secured funding from UKRI, Urban Air Port is now in discussions with investors to support its commercialisation and growth.

Coventry was chosen as the first site due to its important location in the UK heartland and its significance as a historic automotive and aerospace hub, with a pool of talent to support future manufacturing industries. It’s also strategically located – being within four hours of most parts of the country – and was named the best UK town for electric cars in December. The first Air-One site will be unveiled during Coventry’s UK city of culture celebrations and will form part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in nearby Birmingham.

Together with research partners at Coventry University, Urban Air Port wants to further public understanding and acceptance of eVTOL technology – it will use the Air-One to conduct live demonstrations of remote aircraft command and control, charging and refuelling and cargo and passenger loading for manned and unmanned eVTOL aircraft. British drone developer, logistics and engineering firm Malloy Aeronautics is the company’s drone aircraft partner in the UK, and its large cargo drones will be demonstrated at the Air-One.