The UK Government has awarded $11.3m (£9.5m) in funding, through the Future Flight Challenge, to a consortium of British aviation companies for the building of an advanced air mobility (AAM) ecosystem.
The new Advanced Mobility Ecosystem Consortium includes Virgin Atlantic, Atkins, NATS, Vertical Aerospace and Skyports, as well as the Connected Places Catapult and academic institutions University of Warwick, Cranfield University and WMG.
The entities will work together to develop key technology and infrastructure that will expedite the launch of zero-emissions flights in the UK.
They will develop and test technological developments in airspace management, operational procedures, aircraft electrification and ground infrastructure.
The project will demonstrate the UK AAM ecosystem’s feasibility using Vertical Aerospace’s emission-free VX4 eVTOL aircraft, which is operated by Virgin Atlantic.
Two physical flights are planned, one between Bristol Airport and an airfield in south-west England as well as one between London Heathrow Airport and the Living Lab vertiport.
Bristol and Heathrow airports have also agreed to host flight trials in 2024.
A third simulation flight between London City and Bristol airports will showcase urban connectivity.
These flights will support low-cost connectivity in congested urban areas as well as regions that are under-served by current infrastructure.
The consortium will also develop the supporting business cases and systems necessary for the implementation of a new model of aerial passenger transport in the country.
Atkins will have responsibility for the technical management of the initial two-year programme, as well as act as the leader of the consortium.
Atkins Advanced Air Mobility head James Richmond said: “This project brings together experts from across the industry to maintain the UK’s leading position in the future of aviation, moving us closer to commercial operations that will connect regions and contribute to the UK’s net zero targets.”