The UK government has awarded a group of British aviation companies £9.5 million ($11.3 million) to demonstrate the feasibility of advanced air mobility in the country, as part of the UK Research and Innovation agency’s ongoing Future Flight Challenge.
Those companies announced today (July 18) the formation of the Advanced Mobility Ecosystem Consortium, which will work to develop technologies and infrastructure to accelerate the adoption of advanced air mobility (AAM) in the UK.
Members of the Advanced Mobility Ecosystem Consortium include Vertical Aerospace, Virgin Atlantic, Atkins, Skyports, National Air Traffic Services (NATS), Connected Places Catapult, Cranfield University, and the University of Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG).
“This first-of-a-kind ecosystem will accelerate 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 model of aerial passenger transport in the UK,” Vertical officials wrote in their July 18 announcement.
As part of its efforts to demonstrate the feasibility of an AAM ecosystem in the region, the consortium plans to conduct two test flights with Vertical’s VX4 eVTOL, which will be operated by Virgin Atlantic. One of those test flights will see the four-seat VX4 fly from Bristol Airport to an undisclosed airfield in southwestern England. For the other flight, the VX4 will travel from London Heathrow Airport to a new ”Living Lab” vertiport built and operated by Skyports at one of London’s general aviation airports. The team will also conduct a simulated VX4 flight from London City Airport to Bristol Airport to demonstrate urban connectivity, according to Vertical.
“Just as airports are critical to commercial airplane travel, vertiports are critical to AAM. Our Living Lab will be a central component of the consortium, enabling Skyports and partners to demonstrate end-to-end operations and test the complexities of developing a commercially viable AAM network in the UK,” said Skyports CEO Duncan Walker.
The two physical test flights of Virgin Atlantic’s VX4 are scheduled for the spring of 2024, around the same time that Vertical Aerospace expects to achieve type certification for the aircraft. Vertical anticipates that its VX4 will enter service by 2025.