A UK-based startup is snapping up rooftops in London as it gears up to create a network of ‘vertiports’ for drones.
Skyports has already acquired the rights to use 15 rooftops in the UK capital, which it intends to convert into landing and recharge pads for drones.
Working with award-winning London architect firm Barr Gazetas, the company envisions a future where drones will make use of the network of vertiports as they complete a variety of missions from carrying cargo to providing an alternative to passenger transport.
Managing director of Skyports, Duncan Walker, told Dezeen that one day in the near future, the presence of UAVs in cities will be as normal as a bike or a car.
This is certainly likely to be the case, with one report predicting that drones will buoy the UK economy by £42bn by 2030.
“I can see it being absolutely commonplace,” said Walker.
Just as we were designing bike parking spaces into buildings five years ago, I can see drone ports becoming standard in buildings.”
The benefits of having a drone landing pad network not only include the drone operators and customers.
For landlords, there is also a chance to generate an income from what is otherwise a space used only by pigeons.
Skyports believes that the presence of a vertiport on a building would also present the opportunity to list sustainability as a feature of the building, shifting residents towards more environmentally friendly mobility.
“There are many city buildings where vertiports can be efficiently and sensitively incorporated, from historic blocks and shopping centres to open spaces,” Barr Gazetas director Jon Eaglesham said. “We are designing discreet, efficient, secure and environmentally friendly places, that will promote a new level of connectivity within the city.”
London is a complex and busy city however, with development of new UK-wide drone regulations underway.
Already there are regulations in the UK, similar to other countries, that prevent drones flying at higher than 400ft and within 1km of airports.
Skyports intends to assist users of the vertiports by securing appropriate regulatory approvals to ensure safe, cost effective operation of the drone landing pads.
“We’ve got very complicated airspace in the UK, particularly in London,” Walker said. “We’ve got four or five airports around us, we’ve got quite a densely-used airspace and we’ve also got a historic city beneath us.”
“So the aviation authority, who we are engaging with on a monthly basis, is quite cautious. But they’ve got an entire drone team and they recognise it’s coming,” Walker added.
Skyports are currently focussing their efforts in London but eventually want to create a global network of vertiports.
“We want to scale that up to 80 or 100 over the course of the next 18 months,” Walker said.
The plan to develop a network of drone landing pads harks to the visionary sequence put together by German passenger drone company Volocopter, wherein autonomous air taxis land gracefully atop a city building, picking up and dropping off passengers.