British startup flies UK's first eVTOL aircraft

7th November 2018
Posted By : Lanna Cooper
British startup flies UK's first eVTOL aircraft

Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace has test flown its full-scale, fully electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The unmanned technology demonstrator aircraft weighs 750kg and flew across Cotswold Airport in Kemble, Gloucestershire in June 2018 as part of the company’s flight test programme. Founded by OVO Energy CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick, the company’s mission is to provide personal, on-demand and carbon-free air travel between cities.

Annual air passenger journeys have exploded in recent years and are expected to almost double to 7.2bn by 2035. Much of this growth is in short-haul journeys.

As a result, road, rail and airport infrastructure are under intense pressure, end-to-end journeys are taking taking longer and air travel is becoming increasingly disastrous for the environment. Vertical Aerospace wants to help address these challenges and revolutionise how people travel.

Since its inception in 2016, the company has grown to 28 engineers and technical experts, recruited from the likes of Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Martin Jet Pack, DarkTrace and GE.

It has drawn expertise from technologically advanced sectors beyond aviation - including Formula 1 and energy - to put ideas and technologies together in ways never done before. The full scale demonstrator eVTOL aircraft revealed today was designed, built and flown in the UK in 12 months.

The successful flight testing programme has proven the viability of Vertical Aerospace’s technology. It is now working towards the following to achieve its mission of bringing eVTOL aircraft to everyday customers in an affordable, safe, convenient and carbon-free way:

  • Stage 1: Build eVTOL aircraft certified by regulators to operate on piloted short range routes, introducing the first services within four years
  • Stage 2: Continue to develop the technology to extend the aircraft’s range, introduce elements of autonomy and expand the number of chartered routes served
  • Stage 3: Work with relevant authorities to make on-demand air taxis a reality

Stephen Fitzpatrick, Founder and CEO of Vertical Aerospace, said: “Passenger numbers for short-haul flights have exploded in recent years, but as a result aviation is now a major contributor to climate change and local air pollution. Congestion around airports has become a huge problem and for flights of 500 miles or less, we are spending more time travelling to and from the plane than we are in the air.

“At Vertical Aerospace, we want to help address these challenges. We want to decarbonise air travel and give people the freedom to fly from their local neighbourhood directly to their destination.”

“We’ve learned a lot from Formula 1, both in terms of technology and pace of development. The lightweight materials, aerodynamics and electrical systems developed through F1 are highly applicable to aircraft, much more so than to road transport. By putting those technologies in the hands of experienced aerospace engineers, we can build cutting edge aircraft for the 21st Century.”

“Aviation is among the most complex and highly regulated sectors in the world - and with good reason. Safety is and should be the number one priority. Our first eVTOL aircraft was granted flight permission by the CAA and we are already working with EASA to gain Type Certification for our next model. Regulation evolves along with new technology but it takes time. We are working alongside regulators throughout that process.”

“The UK has a real opportunity to lead the world in eVTOL technology. We have a rich heritage in aviation. World class engineers and technical experts train and work here. We have the global outlook and entrepreneurial spirit required to develop and commercialise this technology. Designing and building technology with such disruptive potential could ultimately bring thousands of highly skilled jobs to the UK and secure our place at the forefront of aviation innovation.

"With the right support from government, regulators and the wider science and engineering community, the UK can lead the way in personal, on-demand and carbon free air travel.”

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