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Europe’s first “vertiport” will be built in Italy

Tim Gibson

24 March 2021

GUANGZHOU-BASED air-taxi company EHang plans to construct Europe’s first “vertiport” in Italy.

The company announced on 16 March 2021 that it would be partnering with Italian architecture firm Giancarlo Zema Design Group (GZDG) to design a 30-metre-high structure that will act as a vertical docking station for AAVs - autonomous aerial vehicles.

Inspired by the native African Baobab tree, the vertiport will serve as a future aerial hub for tourists while also integrating with current transportation infrastructure.

The tower will be made from steel and laminated wood, utilising environmentally-friendly construction methods and materials.

The structure itself will be able to generate enough energy to charge EH216 passenger-grade AAVs as it will be built with non-slip photovoltaic panels that can generate over 300 kilowatts of electric power per day.

Inside the tower will be a waiting room with a cafe and a 200 square-metre restaurant complete with panoramic views.

The take-off and landing platform will be on the roof terrace.

While vertiports will be primarily aimed at urban areas, EHang is hoping to also capture the growing eco-tourism sector in Europe and Southeast Asia, with this latest Italian design reflecting those goals.

EHang has become one of the world’s leading AAV technology platform companies.

In April of 2020 the company announced a partnership with Hezhou, a city in the Chinese province of Guangxi, to build the world’s first AAV terminal.

In 2019 EHang received approval from regulators in Guangzhou to launch an air taxi service, and in 2020 the company received approval from Quebec, Canada.

The company’s passenger AAVs will be used for aerial cinematography, photography, emergency response, and survey missions.

GZDG is an architecture firm based in Rome, specialising in eco-friendly, sustainable smart projects, as well as floating habitats, yacht and interior design.

Uber Air has launched a similar initiative, announcing in June 2019 that the company plans to build “skyports” in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Melbourne.

Above: An artists impression of a Florida vertiport. Image courtesy of Lilium Aviation.

EHang isn’t the only company attempting to target the European AAV market. Munich-based Lilium Aviation has also announced plans to construct several vertiports across a number of major cities, including London and Cologne, with hopes to launch its flying-taxi service by 2025.

The company has also just signed a framework agreement with Ferrovial, a global leading infrastructure operator, to develop at least ten vertiports across the United States - the first South Florida location to be announced in early 2021.

AAV technology could prove to rival high-speed rail, as it is both potentially faster, more cost-effective, and more sustainable.

The next decade is shaping as a race of the vertiports.

Header image courtesy of GZDG.


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