Inside The World's First Airport For Drones And Flying Cars
BBC Earth|May - June 2021
Plans to build the world’s first off-grid transport hub for drones and air-taxis have just received government funding. The Urban Air Port, located in Coventry, will offer flying electric vehicles a place to charge and load up. The project aims to lay the groundwork for a web of transport hubs that could provide a green, clean remedy to our cities’ groaning infrastructure. Daniel Bennett talks to Ricky Sandhu, the founder and CEO of Urban Air Port, to see if the idea could take off.
Ricky Sandhu

Plans to build the world’s first off-grid transport hub for drones and air-taxis have just received government funding. The Urban Air Port, located in Coventry, will offer flying electric vehicles a place to charge and load up. The project aims to lay the groundwork for a web of transport hubs that could provide a green, clean remedy to our cities’ groaning infrastructure. Daniel Bennett talks to Ricky Sandhu, the founder and CEO of Urban Air Port, to see if the idea could take off.

WHY DO WE NEED URBAN AIR PORTS?

As an architect and partner at Foster + Partners [an architectural firm], I spent a lot of time developing cutting-edge, innovative buildings and city masterplans, but I never had the scope to tackle the bigger issues involving the bits between the buildings – in other words, our mobility network.

When I first started working on this, my commute was just six miles across London, but it was polluted, congested and took over an hour. So I was just driven by passion and a sense of responsibility that we ought to be developing smarter, cleaner and greener ways to move around our cities.

The urban air-mobility piece came about when Airbus started their air-mobility programme around three years ago. They came to us and said that they knew how to build aircraft, but they didn’t understand cities. They were building a new aircraft that would be small, electric and used for short trips – and they wanted to understand what infrastructure could support something like this.

From there, I built a thesis for what this infrastructure could be, and how it would support the different spaces we live in, from super urban cores like Canary Wharf to our countryside. This work led me to realise that this kind of infrastructure will be massive – and hasn’t been talked about or invested in enough. And that led to the creation of Urban Air Port Ltd.

WHY NOT LAND-BASED TAXIS AND DELIVERIES?

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Inside The World's First Airport For Drones And Flying Cars

Plans to build the world’s first off-grid transport hub for drones and air-taxis have just received government funding. The Urban Air Port, located in Coventry, will offer flying electric vehicles a place to charge and load up. The project aims to lay the groundwork for a web of transport hubs that could provide a green, clean remedy to our cities’ groaning infrastructure. Daniel Bennett talks to Ricky Sandhu, the founder and CEO of Urban Air Port, to see if the idea could take off.

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