Coventry, the home of car-building in the UK, is to host the world’s first air hub for flying electric cars and delivery drones.
The facility, known as Air One, will be built through a partnership involving South Korean carmarker Hyundai.
It is proposed the hub will host electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft, including air taxis and autonomous delivery drones, transporting people and cargo across cities over coming years.
The site, which is being developed by the company Urban Air Port, is set to be unveiled later this year during the Coventry City of Culture celebrations.
It comes after the project was awarded a £1.2 million government grant by the UK Research and Innovation’s Future Flight Challenge (RIFFC), and is expected to attract match-funding from the commercial sector.
Developers are hoping the new hub will be the first of up to 200 such sites to be built in cities across the world over the next five years.
Hyundai is planning to develop its own eVTOL and hopes to have commercialised a flying car by 2028.
Urban Air Port said it had picked Coventry because of its central location, meaning travellers could access most parts of the UK mainland within four hours, and because it was an “historic hub” for the automotive and aerospace sectors.
The city was named the best town in mainland Britain for plugging in electric cars in December 2020, and has been mooted as one of the first potential locations in the country for a gigafactory, building batteries for electric vehicles.
The air hub site will showcase live demonstrations of remote aircraft command and control, charging/refuelling and cargo and passenger loading for manned and unmanned eVTOL aircraft operating in three key markets; passenger air taxi services, autonomous logistics and disaster emergency management.
Ricky Sandhu, Urban Air Port executive chairman, said just as “cars need roads”, “eVTOLs will need urban air ports”, which are 60% smaller than heliports.
He added that the new hubs would “help the UK to take the lead in a whole new clean global economy”.
“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,” he said.
Pamela Cohn, of Hyundai Motor Group, said “development of supporting infrastructure is imperative” for eVTOLs, adding that the carmaker was “excited” to be part of the project.
Gary Cutts, RIFFC director, said the hub technology had the “potential to revolutionise cities across the world”, while also boosting the green economy.
“This project epitomises the purpose of the fund,” he said.
“It is innovation at its finest and will help to position the UK at the vanguard of electric urban air mobility.”
Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council cabinet member for jobs and innovation, said: “We are already a city that is helping to shape the future of electric transport and this is yet another groundbreaking project that puts Coventry at the forefront of new technologies.
“It highlights how the council is working alongside a range of organisations to help shape a better, greener future.”