UK’s Widest Selection of Commercial Drones

New UK Gov Future of Flight plan could see first flying taxi by 2026

Air taxi

Last updated on

March 21, 2024

Contents

    "This is not science fiction.
    It has already started"

    This statement kicked off the UK Government’s drone action plan, released on March 18, 2024.

    Key Takeaways

    DJI Avata

    The “Future of Flight Action Plan” outlines the strategy for more efficient and sustainable aviation and cargo transport. After years of innovation, the government are setting out to finally use drones and ‘flying taxis’ for new and exciting applications.

    Applications include Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operation and, eventually, full automation to deliver goods, complete inspections, and passenger taxi services.

    Backed by £125million of public investment, the strategy laid out by the Future of Flight Industry Group (FFIG) is a blend of ambition and careful planning.

    The goal is to weave new flight technology into the fabric of existing aviation to benefit individuals and UK businesses.

    These benefits include ongoing cost savings, enhanced safety, and increased speed, which drones have already demonstrated across diverse commercial and public sectors.

    A PwC report predicts that Advanced Aerial Mobility could bring the UK yearly benefits worth £1-2 billion by 2040, thanks to cost savings, shorter travel times, and reduced carbon emissions.

    DJI M350 with H20T

    To battle the safety and privacy concerns, the FFC is investing £1.8 million into research to understand and prevent the negative impacts of implementation.

    The government statement addresses that “success will not be straightforward”, but they are “committed to working with the FFIG to provide that collective and continuous effort and to achieve a flourishing UK Future of Flight sector.”

    The Plan Pathways

    UASeVTOL
    1. Demonstrate drone flights beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in shared airspace by 2024
    2. Enable widespread BVLOS operations by 2027
    1. Initial commercial operation of piloted, passenger-carrying eVTOLs by 2026
    2. Routine commercial operation of
    eVTOLs by 2028
    3. Initial autonomous flights of eVTOLs by
    2030

    Sandbox Trial Results Revealed

    The results from the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) sandbox trials on Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone flights are in. These trials, critical for assessing BVLOS flight in shared airspace with Temporary Reserved Areas (TRA), are key in informing and educating the public and businesses on the feasibility of certain applications. Let’s explore the findings.

    Regional Air Mobility

    Vertical Aerospace’s electric VX4 eVTOL aims to bridge UK connectivity gaps with quick, zero-emission flights, like Liverpool to Leeds in 26 minutes or Brighton to Heathrow in 20, bypassing current lengthy car journeys. This impressive aircraft can carry 4 passengers over 100 miles with no operating emissions.

    Remote Mail

    In 2023, the Orkney Islands first drone-delivered mail in the UK, a collaboration involving Skyports Drone Services, Royal Mail, and local authorities. Upcoming enhancements will introduce advanced connectivity and drones capable of handling heavier loads and stronger winds.

    During a trial, mail was flown to the islands of Graemsay and Hoy, where deliveries continued as usual. The project, part of a broader initiative to explore drone delivery’s potential, is a major move towards improved connectivity in remote areas.

    Medical Delivery

    Over 30 hours of day and night BVLOS flights totalling 1,900km, drones delivered surgical implants and pathology samples throughout the winter months, slashing delivery times and cutting CO2 emissions by up to 99.8% compared to traditional vehicles.

    The drone service cut surgical implant delivery times from University Hospital Coventry to the Hospital of St Cross, Rugby, to just 18 minutes, down from the 30-45 minutes it takes by road during rush hour.

    Urban Air Taxi

    Joby’s electric aircraft seats five passengers and promises fast, quiet, and emission-free trips up to 100 miles at speeds of up to 200 mph.

    Requiring just a simple landing pad at each end of the journey, the air taxi will allow rapid transportation around large metropolitan regions, without creating negative environmental impacts.

    It also produces one-third less noise than a helicopter, with in-flight noise levels quieter than a conversation.

    Crime Tackling

    On a July evening in 2023, West Midlands Police used a drone to swiftly resolve a conflict between two groups in Stourbridge.

    The drone spotted the suspects, leading to their arrest by officers on the ground. This efficient response highlighted the cost-effectiveness and tactical advantages of using drones over traditional methods like helicopters.

    National Infrastructure Management

    In 2023, Boeing-backed autonomous flight technology developer, sees.ai, became the UK’s first to get CAA clearance to fly drones BVLOS in non-segregated airspace on a stretch of National Grid’s transmission network.

    This application allows for safer, more efficient asset management and maintenance planning with cost and carbon savings, indicating a significant global market potential. PwC reports a 35% cost reduction using BVLOS for powerline inspections over traditional methods, enhancing efficiency, safety, and quality.

    Connecting Scotland

    Scotland’s remote Highlands and Islands face unique transport hurdles due to their geography, low population, and tough weather. Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) is the British company behind Airlander, an ultra-low emissions hybrid aircraft family.

    HAV’s study with the Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE) in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands confirmed that Airlander 10 could enhance the current transport network, significantly increasing passenger and cargo capacity with little infrastructure change and low investment.

    Airlander 10

    The Future of Flight Government Plan

    A joint strategy for the industrialisation of emerging aviation technologies in the UK.

    Read Full Action Plan

    Summary

    We are living in a thrilling era, marked by the rapid emergence of technology that once seemed confined to the realm of science fiction movies. From autonomous air taxis to packages delivered from the sky, the future we dreamed about is becoming our present reality. This unprecedented technological evolution promises to transform our lives in ways we are only beginning to imagine.

     

    Here’s the final summary of what’s to come:

    2024: Demonstrate BVLOS flights in shared airspace (outside of temporary reserved areas)

    2026: Initial commercial operation of PILOTED, passenger-carrying eVTOLs

    2027: Widespread BVLOS use

    2028: Routine commercial operation of eVTOLs

    2030: Initial autonomous flights of eVTOLs


    “Aviation stands on the cusp of its next, potentially biggest, revolution since the invention of the jet engine. Drones, eVTOL and other different vehicles have the potential to change transportation options forever.”

    -Sophie O’Sullivan, head of future safety and innovation at the UK Civil Aviation Authority

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