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Green mobility 24/03/2020

Vertiports and the Future of Urban Air Mobility

From The Jetsons to Back to the Future to The Fifth Element, personal air mobility has been a recurring feature in popular culture’s image of what the future will look like. Now, it seems, we’re getting a bit closer on this front. 

And it’s not just because we like taking up the technical challenge of making fiction come true, but also because light individualized air travel may have a central role to play in bringing a sustainable and smart transformation of our transportation systems.

The need is real but taking urban mobility up into the air will require more than just the technology to make vehicles fly. It will mean rethinking our existing transport grids, along with the integration of even deeper changes to our overall urban environments. 

For starters, these cars have to land somewhere. Over the past two years, Airbus and Dutch architecture firm MVRDV have collaborated to research and plan the future of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) as a growth opportunity for cities across the world. Unveiled earlier this month, here are some of the key results and features of this extensive project.

The project is mainly focusing on vertiports (platforms for aircrafts taking off and landing vertically). French Airbus has developed the on-demand helicopter booking platform Voom, and is currently working on an autonomous electric air taxi drone.

The vertiports could be added to pre-existing urban configurations and transportation networks without requiring any natural resource and money consuming infrastructures to be built between stations (no tracks, no tunnels, no lights). 

They could also be implemented within new building structures conceived of as sustainable “opportunity hubs,” including educational and healthcare facilities, or even business incubators, running on renewable energies and providing data, especially in remote locations and developing countries. 

The UAM project explores a number of scenarios showing how vertiports could be integrated into cities around the world, for instance, beating Los Angeles traffic jam from above or linking tourist destinations in Shenzen, China.

Both firms acknowledge UAM as a daily transportation mean for everyone is still very much a long-term scenario. In the short-term, it will most likely find its business as a service to connect major activity cores, such as business centers and transportation hubs. 

Photo (MVRVD)

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