By Chris Stonor
The South West of England has been awarded a Government grant to investigate the feasibility of using electric air taxis across the country, reports a press release.
A consortium led by Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, is to look at the feasibility of an air taxi service in the South West area before conducting a live demonstration.
The UKP2.5 million project has secured partial funding through the Government’s Future of Flight Challenge, created to find innovative methods of achieving more environmentally-friendly transportation through finding new ways to travel, increasing mobility, improving connectivity and reducing congestion.
This research project is expected to take 18 months. The release explains, “(It) will comprise an assessment of the demand for air taxi services in the South West; development of use cases for the technology; and an evaluation of the integration and impact on the wider transportation network, including the region’s airports, as well as the benefits to cities and residents.”
And continues, “It will establish viable markets and businesses cases for these services and seek to understand public perceptions and attitudes towards eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft. These activities aim to culminate in a series of full-system demonstrations in live airspace across the region.”
James Richmond, Advanced Air Mobility Lead at Atkins, says, “Bringing together the experience and expertise from across the consortium, we’re excited to begin developing a fully integrated system concept, using the latest digital innovations.”
He adds, “By demonstrating that we can provide a case for air taxis, we could begin trialling these services as early as 2023.”
In addition to managing the project, Atkins is to provide the architecture, develop safety and create a process for secure passenger identification.
Others involved in the Consortium include Vertical Aerospace, a Bristol-based eVTOL manufacturer (to research vehicle integration using its air taxi) and Skyports, a drone delivery company from the emerging Advanced Air Mobility(AAM) industry (responsible for design, development, operation and airport integration of the physical infrastructure to enable safe and efficient air taxi services)
Vic Terry, Head of Digital Systems at Vertical Aerospace, comments, “This is a great opportunity to bring the consortiums’ products and services together, showcasing that air taxis are not reserved for science fiction but achievable to benefit both our cities and economy in the UK and around the world.”
And Duncan Walker, CEO of Skyports, adds, “We are focused on rapidly deploying fully functional vertiports at scale. For early alignment between the infrastructure and technologies is essential to the expansion of this emerging industry.”
Other consortium members include Altitude Angel, NATS, Cranfield University and London-based IT company Neuron. The latter will focus on interconnectivity to enable safe and efficient passenger movement.
One of the British Government’s innovation agencies, Connected Places Catapult, will lead the research into public perception of air taxis, the ways this method of travel could be used, and the expected demand on AAM as a service.
The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) will assist to ensure plans align with the Joint Local Transport Plan and foster cross-sector collaboration between the project and the likes of the Future Transport Zone and 5G.
While the feasibility studies and subsequent trials are to be based in the South West, the project will also consider scalability and application in other cities.
Visual presentation (potential of vertiports)
For more information