Prague as an Ideal City for Connecting Vertiports with Existing Transportation Systems?

What is the future of Urban Air Mobility, what is Czechia’s potential in this field, and how can virtual reality help?

 We spoke to architect, urbanist, and futurist Michal Postránecký about this and more.

1) What can we achieve by incorporating new technologies and digitalization into the operations of cities to the greatest extent possible?

That depends on what the new technology is designed to do and how digitalization is applied. New technologies and digitalization are being gradually implemented. However, a city is a massively complicated system with a myriad of subsystems of various sizes and complexities. Up until recently, they were operated and administered in so-called silos with minimal connections to other systems within the central hierarchy. That has gradually changed with the coming of digital technologies, which present an unending stream of opportunities for operations, maintenance, and upgrades.

New technologies, materials, and chiefly the information-communication environment allows for the significantly improved development of urban systems and their individual subsystems. The fundamental condition is their optimal application and use. Building infrastructure is one thing, while the intelligent application of digital technologies is another. Their successful deployment requires acquiring enormous volumes of data from various sensors, as well as the analysis of this data and its transformation into insights that we can correctly utilize in decision-making processes and their application in real life.

The most important use of new technologies is probably the interconnection of all systems and individual parts of a city that can be better controlled, the fastest-possible reaction to crisis situations, and improving coordination during crises across individual systems. One of the most significant changes can be seen in communication and information technologies that facilitate communication between individuals, such as smartphones and social networks.

Digital technologies are especially useful in individual transportation systems. This means we will eventually see autonomous transportation in many cities and countries. There is a long road ahead of us, and their implementation will depend on the locality and specific country that develops the supporting infrastructure and legislation.

2) What is the future of autonomous airborne transportation system? What can we expect?

This type of transportation is called Urban Air Mobility. Autonomous airborne transportation systems carrying passengers or cargo in and around an urban environment or between cities are certainly on the horizon. These types of aircraft are called Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) vehicles, and as the main source of power for them will be batteries, they are more precisely called


eVTOLs rise to a height of about 30 metres above their landing pad and then begin a gradual ascent (about 7.5 degrees) to minimize consumption until they reach the required cruising altitude where they travel through a set corridor to another city. The landing pads will be defined in the associated regulations, much like helicopter pads, or in this case vertiports, which require a ground-based network of vertiports for this type of transportation.

First, urban residents need to accept this mode of transportation. eVTOL vehicles are being developed by many institutions and companies. The investments are massive, and you can see international investors betting on the future of these types of urban transport systems. In the near future, we will certainly see piloted eVTOL vehicles being put into operation, and they will be employed at this summer’s Olympics in Paris.

3) There is a Czech Urban Air Mobility concept called Vertimove. Are we on par with other countries in this respect, or are we playing catch-up?

The Vertimove project basically covers two areas: A user interface for individuals and the MiYa aircraft cabin developed by the Czech Aerospace Research Centre (VZLÚ), and the ground infrastructure for eVTOL vehicles, meaning the landing and take-off pads and parking for the vehicles, which was my area. In terms of the cabin, we can offer a design that is on par with the competition.


Our designs for the vertiports are also competitive, but in terms of implementation we’ll soon be well behind the competition. A lack of public financing into this area and interested investors is coupled with political caution among most elected officials reticent to fight for projects that extend beyond a single electoral period. There is also the extensive time required to change zoning plans and approving construction permits, which will mean we will look jealously at other European cities where these concepts will be implemented. It will take us a long time to realize just how far behind we are. That doesn’t mean various foreign-made eVTOL aircraft that will gradually start receiving the necessary licenses during this year won’t fly outside of our cities.

4) What did you have to consider when designing the vertiports? What did you have to take into account?

Working with my colleagues in the team, my main task was to prepare the methodology for the planning and creation of the Czech vertiport network for the chief project guarantor, which is the Ministry of Transport. Part of this task was the definition of their size and purpose and to find the space needed within existing urban systems so that they make sense. As one of the goals of the distant future is to add this mode of transportation to the existing integrated transport system, they should be located close to a significant existing or future transport hubs. The economics of operation will also have an influence on the success of adding eVTOLs to the transport network. The most important thing is obviously passengers accepting this mode to transport. Transporting cargo will not be as significant of a challenge.

One of the biggest obstacles for operating these flying vehicles with vertical take-off abilities is a lack of space, as vertiports require significant amounts. To discover where to find these locations and how to work with them, we focused on Prague. We then simulated locating various types of vertiports at several locations. In last phase of the project, which lasted two years altogether, I proposed a so-called Vertihub located above the tracks of Prague’s Main Train Station. In this case, Prague offers the unique opportunity (at least in Europe), to interconnect vertiports with other forms of transportation in the heart of the city, providing an agreement with the railway administrator is reached. Naturally, this is a location targeted by developers, but wasting an opportunity like this by building more offices or hotels would be a terrible shame and the end of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be truly exceptional in comparison with other European cities.

5) How did virtual reality aid your work?

The ability to remotely connect to the Virtuplex space from Florida was a very enlightening experience within the Vertihub project. I was able to walk through my design, which was created in 3D for these purposes. My colleagues equipped with VR headsets at the Virtuplex were able to walk around the aircraft with me allowing us to consult various changes. It was a bit of a challenge to set up everything so that it worked. The process also requires a fast Wi-Fi connection, but it’s a way that VR can significantly facilitate cooperation on a project at various locations in real time. If it can be simplified as much as possible and the hardware continues to develop, then I will certainly employ it as one of the fundamental tools I use as an architect, urbanist, and designer.

In general, I would also add that despite having a great imagination and the ability to see the design in 3D from the beginning, VR and the option of viewing the entire proposal and its details from various positions is a clear upgrade from static renderings or videos in terms of seeing my design. Specifically the quick change of position and the ability to walk around the building, to approach it, or to enter it and see every detail including possible collisions and imperfections is extremely important. I would especially highlight the ability to immediately and smoothly view the design from all sides, angles, and distances and the opportunity to place the proposed model into a real environment created either manually or by scanning and then adjusting.

6) VR is already becoming a tool regularly used by architects. What’s your view?

I’m a big proponent of using these technologies and their integration into the entire process of designing structures through their construction and maintenance. I promote them at the Future City Centre at the Czech Technical University’s Institute of Informatics and Robotics (CIIRC ČVUT), which I founded five years ago. Using the latest technologies is an important factor for developing our world. Virtual reality is an excellent tool for visualizing not just the design itself or existing buildings, but also the processes that take place or could take place based on simulation and changing the basic factors and data. That’s not just true of buildings, but also entire city neighbourhoods and landscapes and the various kinds of urban structures within them.

7) Technological development is constantly moving forward and the same is true of VR.

We’ve seen incredible advancements in the last few years. How do you think this

technology will develop in the future? What would you like to see to make your work as an architect more efficient and easier?

The constant development of hardware, specifically the headsets that display the images, means working with this technology will be easier and more user friendly. They are still a bit of an awkward box you wear on your head. That will certainly change in just a few years. Another advancement that would help is making its use and operation as simple as possible. You can already control it using hand gestures, which is user friendly, but bringing the headset and the applications online is still too complicated for a complete newcomer. I would welcome a simple configuration where you put the VR box on your head, turn it on, and then immediately begin using the selected application without any other steps. That would simplify working with remote clients that never worked with VR. You just send them the headset, and they turn them on and are immediately able to walk through the proposed structure according to simple audio-visual instructions. If the headsets are connected to Wi-Fi, then you can work on the proposal and client’s notes together remotely.