A new Advanced Mobility Ecosystem Consortium has been created by a group of British aviation companies, which will develop key technology and infrastructure to accelerate the introduction of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) in the UK.
The consortium includes Vertical Aerospace, Virgin Atlantic, Atkins, Skyports and NATS, along with Connected Places Catapult and academic institutions Cranfield University and WMG – University of Warwick. It 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.
“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,” says Gary Cutts, Future Flight Challenge Director at UK Research and Innovation. “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. This project could revolutionise travel, not just in the UK but around the world.”
The project will demonstrate the feasibility of a UK AAM ecosystem using Vertical Aerospace’s emission-free VX4 eVTOL aircraft, operated by Virgin Atlantic. Two physical flights will take place between Bristol Airport to an airfield in South West England, and between London Heathrow Airport and the ‘Living Lab’ vertiport operated by Skyports. A third simulation flight will demonstrate urban connectivity between London City and Bristol airports.
“We are thrilled to be working alongside our consortium partners to accelerate the introduction of zero emission flight to UK customers,” says Holly Boyd-Boland, VP Corporate Development, Virgin Atlantic. “As the only airline in the consortium, Virgin Atlantic brings 38 years of operational excellence, a relentless focus on safety and security, and an unrivalled focus on the end-to-end customer journey. Alongside our partners, we are looking forward to getting the first Virgin Atlantic eVTOL aircraft into the skies.”
The demonstrations will explore key aspects of the passenger journey, vehicle operation, airspace navigation, ground charging, security provision and local stakeholder engagement. Heathrow Airport, Bristol Airport, Skyports and NATS, the UK’s air navigation service provider, will collaborate to deliver the physical and digital infrastructure. The two-year project will be overseen by Atkins as consortium lead.