Updated: Apr 29
Hyundai started in 1947 as an infrastructure company, which initially focused on building roads, and didn’t start mass manufacturing cars until 1968. Why build cars if there’s no where to drive them? The same thinking is behind the South Korean motor company’s £2m partnership with Leif Capital client Urban Air Port Ltd, a UK start-up that makes the world’s smallest electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) airport, and the British government’s Future Flight Challenge.
Hyundai Urban Air Mobility, the division of Hyundai responsible for its eVTOL aircraft such as air taxis and autonomous delivery drones, knows that you can’t fly unless you have an airport where you can also take off and land.
Speaking at GCV's Digital Forum in September, Adam Slepian, Global Head of Partnerships at Hyundai Urban Air Mobility, explained: “If we have this great aircraft that we are looking to build and take out for commercial purposes … if we don’t have anywhere to take off and land, if we don’t have anywhere to charge, if we don’t have the right partners to develop that digital infrastructure, there is no market for it in the future.”
Urban Air Port has been selected as a winner of the UK government’s Future Flight Challenge and awarded a £1.2m government grant to develop aviation infrastructure and systems that enable the next generation of electric and autonomous air vehicles.
The first urban airport, Air-One, will be launched in Coventry later this year, in partnership with Hyundai, Coventry City Council and the British government. Urban Air Port develops fully autonomous innovative zero emission infrastructure for future air mobility.
The physical footprint of an Urban Air Port is 60% smaller than a traditional heliport (the most comparable existing infrastructure). The company plans to develop more than 200 sites in the next five years to meet global demand.
Harpreet ‘Ricky’ Sandhu, Urban Air Port’s Executive Chairman, expects air quality regulations and government-backed infrastructure spending to drive growth first in the UK and Scandinavia, with North American, Middle Eastern and Asian buyers not far behind.
Having secured funding for Air-One, Urban Air Port is now in discussions with investors to support its international growth. Interest in flying cars, drones and the infrastructure they require appears strong.
Altitude Angel, a UK-based provider of traffic management technology for drones and flying taxis that is partnering with Urban Air Port in the Coventry project, raised £7m ($9.4m) last year from Octopus Ventures, one of Europe’s largest VC investors, and Seraphim Capital, a specialist ‘space-tech’ investor backed by Airbus and other corporates.
This followed Toyota, Intel Capital, JetBlue Technology Investors and others investing $590m in US-based eVTOL taxi developer Joby Aviation. A competitor to Joby, Lilium Aviation, the Germany based Munich University spin-out, raised more than $240 million in a funding round led by Chinese Internet group Tencent.
Urban Air Port plans to develop more than 200 sites in the next five years to meet global demand. NASA predicts that urban-air mobility in the US alone could be worth up to $500 billion USD (£375 billion) in the near-term and states that a significant barrier to market growth is the lack of infrastructure, an issue which Urban Air Port was established to resolve.