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UK’s first ‘emission-free’ test flights to launch from Bristol airport

By Mia Vines Booth, Monday Jul 18, 2022

Bristol Airport will be the launching pad of two ‘emission-free’ flights as part of a project that could significantly accelerate the introduction of ‘Advanced Air Mobility’ (AAM) in the UK.

The VX4 eVTOL aircraft will complete two trips: one from Bristol Airport to another airfield in South West England, and another between London Heathrow Airport and the soon-to-be-developed Living Lab vertiport.

A third simulation flight will demonstrate urban connectivity between London City and Bristol airports.

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The VX4 aircraft aims to demonstrate the feasibility of a UK AAM ecosystem.

Advanced air mobility is a developing form of travel that aims to enable cost-effective connectivity into congested urban areas and across regions under-served by existing infrastructure.

The ‘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 – photo: AMEC Consortium

The demonstrations will explore key aspects of the passenger journey, from vehicle operation and airspace navigation to ground charging and security provision.

Such systems could have the potential to be progressed into fully commercial operations if the demonstrations are successful.

The flights will be organised by the Advanced Mobility Ecosystem Consortium, consisting of leading British aviation companies and institutions, including Virgin Atlantic, Skyports, Vertical Aerospace, University of Warwick and NATS.

The ‘emission-free’ aspect comes from battery and EV technologies, which will be developed by the University of Warwick, who are working with Vertical Aerospace to integrate a smart-diagnostic functionality to the battery charger device for use in the test flights.

The consortium has been awarded a £9.5 million grant by the UK Government, as part of its Future Flight Challenge, to develop the essential building blocks needed to create a viable AAM ecosystem.

The government is hoping to invest up to £125 million to develop greener ways to fly through the Future Flight Challenge, and is being matched by £175 million from the industry.

According to the government, the introduction of AAM to services will increase UK GDP by 1.8% by 2030 and support the government’s levelling up and net zero agendas.

Other countries are also racing to establish their own AAM ecosystems by 2025. James Richmond, Head of Advanced Air Mobility at Atkins, said: “This is an exciting leap forward for AAM”.

“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,” he continued.

Main photo: AMEC Consortium

Read more: Bristol-based health-tech platform has big plans for pupil wellbeing 

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