Leeds Bradford Airport: Plans for new drones hub launched to help deliver goods and services

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Leeds Bradford Airport is to launch an aircraft hub with a focus on logistics drones.

The Yorkshire airport has confirmed an agreement has been struck with UK-based start-up, Urban-Air Port, who will be working with LBA to develop an off-grid, hydrogen-powered infrastructure hub at the airport.

The main role of the site at LBA will be to provide a space for the command, charging and loading of logistics drones.

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The hub will ultimately be charged with providing safe and secure infrastructure to support drone delivery services in the Leeds City Region in the near future. Within the scope of the agreement between LBA and Urban-Air Port, there is also capacity for Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicle storage and charging.

The new drones hub is planned for Leeds Bradford Airport.The new drones hub is planned for Leeds Bradford Airport.
The new drones hub is planned for Leeds Bradford Airport.

Charles Johnson, head of planning development at LBA, said: “This collaboration signifies an exciting development for the airport and highlights the ability of Yorkshire to lead on innovative infrastructure solutions.

“It’s fantastic to see how aviation and its partner industries are developing new technologies that will be essential to our future.

“I am looking forward to seeing how the project develops, as we continue to act as a key hub for connectivity in the UK.”

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Urban-Air Port said as a business it aims to reduce congestion in busy cities and create sustainable logistics solutions throughout the UK.

CGI of the terminalCGI of the terminal
CGI of the terminal

Ricky Sandhu, its founder and executive chairman, said: “In putting this agreement with LBA in place, we are getting ahead of the curve for the next wave of logistics and infrastructure.

“We are looking forward to developing an ultra-compact, rapidly deployable, multi-functional operations hub with facilities for vehicles providing aircraft command and control, charging/refuelling, cargo, and passenger loading.

“This will result in a future with less vehicles on our road and more sustainable cities.”

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The move comes after airport bosses confirmed last month that they were withdrawing its planning application for a £150m replacement terminal building.

Citing “excessive delays and the decision to call in plans by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities”, the airport confirmed that it would not proceed with its plan for a £150m new building.

LBA said it was not prepared to commit a further uncapped sum over an indefinite timeframe into a public inquiry process when their focus needs to be on modernising the airport for the future.

The airport will instead turn its attention to developing the extension to the existing terminal, originally approved by Leeds City Council in 2019.

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The replacement terminal plans, which would have delivered a purpose designed, BREEAM excellent rated terminal building, were about meeting demand already approved under the 2019 consent in a more sustainable way, allowing the airport to achieve its environmental targets more quickly within an ambitious new development.

The plan was signed off by Leeds City Council in February last year but was subjected to a lengthy delay by Whitehall, before being officially called in for a public inquiry earlier this year.

LBA has added it remains committed to delivering its 2030 Carbon Net Zero Roadmap and to creating a modern, decarbonised regional UK airport within the extension scheme.

The news of the scrapping of the terminal was described by Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, as having undermined the levelling up agenda, with passengers and business leaders having criticised opposition to the upgrade, amid concerns that travellers will now simply travel to Manchester or further afield in order to carry out their journeys.

The move on a drone hub will help support the airport going forward.

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