The city of Coventry, England, will start testing flying taxis and parcel delivery drones later this year. The £1.2 million project could help create the country’s first “urban airways.” The government has set up a central station from which test flights will be made to various locations in the city of 400,000 people. The task will be managed from the ground by a company called Urban-Air Port.
Flying taxis and similar transport methods are being tried in many parts of the world. But the tests so far have avoided densely populated areas. Even pioneers such as Singapore’s Volocopter and Florida’s Lilium have not ventured into such places. The UK plans to use the Altitude Angel air traffic control system to make flights safer. This technology “will allow everyone who takes air travel to use the airspace safely. It will help air taxis, drone operators, but also commercial air traffic and rescue helicopters,” said Richard Ellis, the company’s business manager.
The US is not lagging behind in air taxiing either: according to Steve Dickinson, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, the country could approve plans for urban air routes by 2023 at the latest and taxis could take off as early as next year. In the UK project, drones from Malloy Aeronautics and SkyFarer will deliver cargo, while South Korea’s Hyundai will provide the flying taxis. The company hopes to be able to bring these vehicles to market by 2028.
And Safeguard Vertiports and the country’s aviation authority are working together to regulate urban air travel. The project will take 3-4 months in total, but a one-year extension is currently being discussed – to allow testing of more routes and vehicles. The central station, called Air-One, will not only support air transport: it will also be able to charge conventional electric cars, bicycles and scooters. According to Ricky Sandhu, founder of Urban-Air Port, several UK cities are keen to develop similar projects.
Meanwhile, the UK Royal Mail has also started experimenting with drones, using Windracers vehicles to deliver parcels across the sea to the Isles of Scilly. Deliveries will arrive by plane at the distribution centre, from where they will be carried by drones.