Taken by K. Howarth (2019)

An innovative new consortium of British aviation companies has just received £9.5 million in government funding to demonstrate the commercial and operational viability of Advanced Air Mobility (AAR). 

The trials the consortium plans to undertake will include the showcasing of trial flights across major UK airports and a new ‘vertiport’. Together, the organization will develop key technology and infrastructure in a project meant to make AAR more of a reality. 

New approach to passenger air travel

AAR is a new transport system aimed at using new types of aircraft to bring people and cargo to places that might not have been previously served. AAM offers a new form of travel, enabling cost-effective connectivity into congested urban areas and underserved regions. 

Vertical Aerospace, Virgin Atlantic, Atkins, Skyports and NATS, Connected Places Catapult and academic institutions Cranfield University and WMG, University of Warwick, are all members of the new Advanced Mobility Ecosystem Consortium. 

The consortium has been awarded a £9.5 million grant by the UK Government’s Future Flight Challenge to develop the essential building blocks of a viable AAM ecosystem that has the potential to be progressed into full commercial operations. 

It is hoped that the consortium will support AAM in the UK by creating and testing technological developments in aircraft electrification, airspace management, ground infrastructure, operational procedures and the systems and supporting business cases required to implement a new air passenger system in the UK. 

Test aircraft and test flights

Testing AAM’s viability will depend on Vertical Aerospace’s emission-free VX4 eVTOL aircraft, operated by Virgin Atlantic. Two physical flights will take place, and a third simulation flight will demonstrate urban connectivity between London City and Bristol airports.

These demonstrations will explore key aspects of the passenger journey, vehicle operation, airspace navigation, ground charging, security provision and local stakeholder engagement. 

Gary Cutts, Future Flight Challenge Director at UK Research and Innovation said: “Our roadmap sets out how air taxis could be in use in the UK by 2030, but a lot needs to occur for that to happen. By bringing technical developments from across the aviation industry together into one network, and undertaking early demonstration in the real world, the Advanced Mobility Ecosystem Consortium could accelerate the timescale for AAM introduction by years.”

Andrew Macmillan, Director of Strategy of Vertical Aerospace, said: “We are building the best industrial and commercial partner ecosystems and are progressing in Britain with our UK launch customer, Virgin Atlantic. We want the UK to lead the electric aviation and AAM revolution.”

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