Hyundai Air Mobility (part of Hyundai Motor Group) and Urban-Air Port have teamed up to “explore new, purpose built, multifunctional and scalable infrastructure to enable Urban Air Mobility (UAM).” Think it’s just a side project? Think it’s marketing? Think again. Hyundai plans to invest $1.5 billion in the next 5 years to both develop an air vehicle and help develop the broader urban air mobility ecosystem.
As we’ve written several times, the electric UAM market is starting to sprout and is reminiscent of the electric car market a decade or so ago. As battery energy density continues to improve and battery production ramps up, much is expected in a new urban air transportation world. Hyundai is forecasting that the market will be worth $1.5 trillion over the next 20 years.
Infrastructure — Neglected But Not Forgotten
Naturally, while many focus on the more exciting, fun development of brand new electric urban aircraft, much is needed in order to create adequate ground infrastructure for such aircraft. The Hyundai and Urban-Air Port partnership is initially focused on the UK, but surely has its sights much broader.
“Hyundai’s and Urban-Air Port’s goals in this partnership are fully aligned – transforming cities for the better by creating a versatile infrastructure that enables future mobility, vitalizes urban communities, and expands access to transportation services and the green economy,” a press release about the partnership states.
There is often a strong focus on the vehicles, but without coordination and investment in other parts of the ecosystem, UAM is just a flying science project. Infrastructure is one of the crucial areas of the broader ecosystem that will bring aerial mobility to communities around the world. We are excited to partner with Urban-Air Port and UK communities to explore what this infrastructure of the future will look like,” Pamela Cohn, COO of Hyundai Air Mobility, said.
“As part of Hyundai Motor Group, our Air Mobility division is intent on supporting the development of human-centred cities through innovation,” Dr. Jaiwon Shin, Head of Hyundai Air Mobility, added.
The Urban-Air Port Air-One Infrastructure
What exactly is different about building new UAM versus old-school heliports? Well, apparently, one thing is that they intend to be much more space-efficient. Urban-Air Port’s current Air-One design “has a 60% smaller footprint than a traditional heliport or nearest-state-of-the-art ‘vertiports’, allowing for quick and easy installation in space-limited urban sites.” Plus, it’s modular with a flat-pack system that allows for quick and low-cost transport and deployment.
But it’s not just a few slabs of metal. The modular system includes “passenger/cargo processing/amenities and vehicle charging/maintenance facilities within its ultra-compact form.”
The stage they are at now is to created a full-scale prototype and start live eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) demonstrations.
The UK’s Coventry in the West Midlands has agreed to support this UAM development in 2021. Coventry will be the UK City of Culture 2021 host and the Commonwealth Games host, so has ample opportunity to be a showcase for a much broader audience.
Another British city has also signed on to support development of the infrastructure but was not named in the announcement.
You know Hyundai Motor Group. But who is Urban-Air Port? It is apparently a wholly owned subsidiary of “small.” — which stands for “Six Miles Across London Limited.” Yup, I know, still doesn’t tell us anything. The way the company summarizes it, small. (the period seems to be part of the name) “consists of a group of UK based Urban DeepTech companies focusing on Future Mobility; Urban.AV (Autonomous Vehicles), Urban.MASS (Mass Transit) and Urban-Air Port.”
We will most likely be reporting on this partnership again within the year. Let us know if you find out more.