Ricky Sandhu, Founder and Chairman of Urban-Air Port – opened the first operational vertiport prototype for EVTOLs in the world - visited Amsterdam last month. During the World Aviation Festival we were able to ask the young entrepreneur a few questions. “EVTOL companies recognize that they need to work with the infrastructure provider to make sure that we understand what their vehicles need and vice versa.”
On April 25th this year, Sandhu opened the world's first fully operational prototype testbed. It was open for three weeks and it attracted 15,000 visitors. “It was really exciting because it was the first time that such a piece of aviation infrastructure for advanced air mobility had been integrated into a complex urban centre. We were 60 seconds from Coventry City Centre and we were 60 seconds from Coventry's mainline railway station, and we were in a very compact site surrounded by towers. So it was the hardest location to locate a new vertiport, but it was also located within the Coventry Airport's flight restriction zone,” Sandhu explains. He and his team from Urban-Air Port made that decision to demonstrate how Urban-Air Port could create its own air traffic zone within a larger, more complex traditional aviation air traffic zone. It also meant that they couldn’t do it without the help of several partners, including the UK's civil aviation authorities.
But that allowed us to have over 150 cargo drone EVTOL flights take off safely, do a small flight and then land safely. It was the first time that such heavy cargo drones have ever flown in such a dense urban environment. So it was a really exciting opportunity for people to really get close to drone technologies, but also to actually see a 1:1 full-scale model of a passenger air taxi. For the first time people were able to get really close to a future mode of transport within a city.
For Sandhu and Urban-Air Port, the three weeks were more than just to show the technology of the transport, but also to let people experience what the actual user experience would be like. And that is what's going to be really important for this industry to take off.
After the three week event, the whole structure of the prototype vertiport - Air One - was dismantled and stored for future use. Sandhu: “There was no mark left of it being there in this Coventry City Centre car park. And that was important because cities are learning how to integrate this technology. Developers, city planners, local communities, our future customers, aviation authorities and airports don't know how this is going to pan out. So for us, it was important that we don't have a permanent structure because there's a lot of other factors that we need to work on together with stakeholders. So we dismantled Air One and now there's a couple of locations that are vying for it to be re-built for continued testing in other locations.”