PLACE TECH
Is this drone airport the future of urban mobility?
April 1, 2022
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  • Urban-Air Port’s first site opens this month and will serve as the blueprint for more than 200 similar drone stations across the world in the next five years as air taxis and autonomous delivery become a reality.

    Called Air-One, the debut hub in Coventry, England is backed by the UK government, Supernal – Hyundai’s advanced air mobility division – and Coventry City Council.

    As well as a take-off and landing pads, there will be a version of click and collect. Major retailers and food-and-beverage brands, including fashion brand Anatomie, Italian food producer Bottega, caterer Compass Group, electric billboard specialist LG Business Solutions, smart vending machine supplier Mother and fashion label Paul & Shark, have signed contracts with Urban-Air Port to deliver the new customer experience.

    UNMARKED SMAL Urban Airport Air One Retail

    Impression of Urban-Air Port’s retail experience. Image Copyright © Urban-Air Port Ltd. All Rights Reserved

    Ricky Sandhu, founder and executive chairman of Urban-Air Port, said: “Once complete, Air-One – the world’s first fully operational hub for flying taxis and delivery drones – will spark into life an entirely new world of affordable, zero-emission and congestion-free travel. However, this is not just about getting from A to B, it’s about the journey itself. Air-One is so much more than a landing pad for flying taxis and delivery drones. It will deliver a world-class interactive customer experience – one that can be replicated right across the world as we build our network of over 200 sites globally.”

    The urban air mobility market is forecasted to grow by 9% annually, reaching $1tn in the next 20 years. Commercial flights are expected to begin this decade, including Supernal’s flying taxi which enters commercial operations in 2028. According to McKinsey, some flight operators could see passenger numbers reach 70,000 per day as early as 2030, while Urban-Air Port predicts its global passenger numbers could reach up to 28million a year in the next five years, creating an enormous new market for retail and F&B, that will be worth millions of dollars for brands and partners as the network of Urban-Air Ports expands.

    UAP’s vertiports will provide the essential ground infrastructure to support this new market, transforming the way goods and people are transported around urban areas and hosting a never-before-seen retail experience.

    Urban-Air Port has a clear vision to unlock a future ‘lifestyle retail experience’ that integrates retail effortlessly into travellers’ physical journey from A to B via a unifying smartphone app. This single app will enable travellers to plan their journey, engage with brands associated with Urban-Air Choice and seamlessly integrate with other forms of transport. For example, someone could rent an e-scooter, travel to an Urban-Air Port, take an air taxi across a city, order a coffee on route and have it waiting at an Urban-Air Café at their destination, all controlled from the palm of their hand.

    Each Urban-Air Port passenger lounge will be an entirely new type of space. A fraction of the size of a traditional airport terminal, it will create a unique retail experience by exposing consumers to brands in novel and engaging ways, such as interactive screens and virtual/augmented reality technology, rather than permanent bricks and mortar shops. The approach enables brands to remain agile, hosting interactive campaign-specific content at opportune times, rather than expensive long-term shop fronts. This enables them to engage the right audiences, with the right messages, in the right place at the right time.

    All brands and products will also be accessible through Urban-Air Port’s app, meaning the retail experience extends further than just the customers’ visit to the physical site. Consumers then have the option to order products directly to their homes or even have them delivered via drone to their local Urban-Air Port or CityBox drone delivery hub [image here], or ready to be ‘vended’ by Mother’s smart vending machines using a collection code.

    This vision is being spearheaded by two leaders in the travel retail and F&B industry. Keith Hunter, Chief Retail Officer, has both led and consulted on retail operations for major transport hubs and leisure brands including Alpha Airports Group, Warner Leisure Hotels, and Qatar Airways. Nicholas Goddard-Palmer, Chief Hospitality Officer, is a fellow of the Institute of Hospitality and brings over 25 years of experience including as CEO of Delhi Duty-Free and Vice President of F&B at QDF for Qatar Airways.

    Keith Hunter, chief retail officer at Urban-Air Port said: “Urban-Air Port’s vertiports are unlocking an entirely new sector within the travel industry – zero-emission electric air mobility. With that comes the opportunity to develop an entirely novel consumer experience, an experience that allows people to interact with brands and services like never before and – through our app – continue that experience beyond the terminal. This gives our customers absolute flexibility and control over every aspect of their journey and any services they require, perfectly complementing their lifestyle needs. It’s a phenomenal opportunity for consumers and brands alike.”

    Nicholas Goddard-Palmer, chief hospitality officer at Urban-Air Port, said: “Coventry is just the start. With the support of our new brand partners, it gives us the platform to showcase what can be delivered in this new forum and opens the door for a whole new world of retail and F&B by creating unique experiences across the Urban-Air Choice suite of services, which is key to the delivery of our non-aeronautical strategy.”

    Urban-Air Port continues to receive huge interest in its retail and F&B offering and looks forward to adding new partners.

    From 28 Apri to 15 May 2022, Air One will be open to the public, with tours provided by the Urban-Air Port team. Updates can be found on UAP’s LinkedIn channel and www.urbanairport.com.

    The company is backed by major international partners, including Supernal. Urban-Air Port’s team of innovators, aeronautical engineers and aerospace experts have worked at companies including Airbus, Foster + Partners, Arup, JP Morgan, Knight Frank, British Aviation Group, Qinetiq and Uber, and in the UK Defence Sector.