Published 10 Mar 2021
New Generation Passenger And Cargo Transport: VTOL-Drone
In the past, we used to see flying cars in movies and we thought that humanity would bring such vehicles to life in very distant times. But very soon the future of public transportation will be airborne. Fast urbanization and the emergence of new megacities require disruptive urban mobility solutions to facilitate thousands of daily commutes. OEMs and startups alike are racing the clock to launch the first electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft by 2025. In other words: personal air transportation for up to 8 passengers that can set off and land from predefined locations or ‘skyports’.
Hydrogen-Powered VTOL Drone Flies For 3.5 Hours
VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) drones are quite versatile, as they combine the vertical flight of a helicopter with the fast and efficient forward flight of a fixed-wing airplane. This one features an extended range, thanks to a fuel cell power system.
The experimental aircraft was developed by a team at the Netherlands' Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), working with colleagues from the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Netherlands Coastguard. It has a 3-meter (9.8 ft) wingspan, weights 13 kg (29 lb), and features 12 motor/propeller units distributed on its two wings. Even if several of the motors fail, it can reportedly still fly and land successfully.
In a recent trial conducted off the Dutch coast, the drone took off from the deck of a coastguard ship, then proceeded to fly over the open ocean for 3.5 hours before landing back on the vessel. It is hoped that the aircraft could ultimately find use in applications such as reconnaissance and inspection.
World’s First eVTOL Hub To Be Built In The UK
Hyundai passenger drones are supposed to be commercialized by 2028 – but they’ll need urban infrastructure to get off the ground. End of January 2021 the British government granted Hyundai and Urban Air Port approval to build the world’s first eVTOL hub. Set to launch later this year, the facility won’t just act as a port for eVTOL crafts and autonomous delivery drones, but also demonstrate the full potential of sustainable urban air mobility in the UK and beyond.
While eVTOL development has come a long way over the last decade, there is still no real infrastructure in place for the aircrafts. But thanks to a £1.2 million (about $1.65 million) grant from UK Research and Innovation’s Future Flight Challenge, Hyundai and Urban Air Port will now move forward with plans to build a temporary airport in the Coventry city center, about 20 miles east of Birmingham, in North England. According to Reuters, starting in November of this year, the Air-One hub will host live demonstrations meant to showcase how eVTOLs can be used for passenger transportation, autonomous logistics and disaster emergency management.
The Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group chose Urban Air Port as its priority infrastructure partner to support the global growth of the new urban air mobility (UAM) sector. The South Korean company plans to create its own eVTOL aircraft and support the broader urban air mobility eco-system. Hyundai Motor Group is supporting the development of Air-One as part of its plan to commercialize its aircraft by 2028.
The Era Of Cargo Drones And Air Taxis
The Urban Air Port’s Air-One concept represents a “pop up” urban airport and charging hub for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft such as cargo drones and air taxis. Urban Air Port views the Coventry hub as just a start of a much larger and more ambitious project. The company says it hopes to develop 200 more eVTOL port sites over the next five years, both in the UK and abroad. The era of cargo drones and air taxis is about to begin.
Clean And Eco-Friendly Urban Air Transport
The facility will also take up less space and use fewer resources than a traditional helipad or airport, according to a press release. Because there is no runway, Hyundai says its physical footprint will be 60 % smaller. Using modular construction, the sites can be installed in a matter of days. It will also emit zero carbon emission and can also be operated completely off-grid, should the need arise, meaning they do not always have to rely on a suitable grid connection.
Urban Air Port has hailed the UK’s decision, saying that it moves clean urban air mobility that much closer to becoming a reality. “Cars need roads. Trains need rails. Planes need airports. eVTOLs will need Urban Air Ports. Over a hundred years ago, the world’s first commercial flight took off, creating the modern connected world,” founder Ricky Sandhu said in a statement.
Urban Air Port is designed to support any eVTOL aircraft and complements other modes of sustainable transport as a hub for EVs, electric buses, scooters or other vehicles. The modular design enables Urban Air Ports to be easily dismantled and moved to alternative sites, as the air-mobility sector develops.
Urban Air Port develops fully autonomous innovative zero emission infrastructure for future air mobility. The Air-One project, the company states, will bring industry, government and the public together to demonstrate how to unlock the potential of sustainable urban air mobility to reduce congestion, cut air pollution and holistically decarbonize transport while providing seamless passenger journeys and deliveries.