GKN Aerospace is helping to develop the next generation of sustainable technology – including eVTOL aircraft – through three ground-breaking collaborative programmes as part of the UK’s Future Flight Challenge.

Regarded as one of the world’s leading aerospace suppliers, the company will take a leading role in the programmes and deliver them from its new £32 million Global Technology Centre in Bristol.

With 15 collaborators and an initial investment of £4.5 million, the three programmes focus on electrification, unmanned commercial flight and more sustainable regional aerospace solutions to drive connectivity.

One of the programmes – called Skybus – will explore a novel transport network based on large eVTOL aircraft capable of transporting up to 50 passengers, taking the ‘Park and Ride’ concept into the air and flying over congested routes. The programme will be supported by Swanson Aviation Consultancy, Pascall+Watson and Connected Places Catapult.

Max Brown, VP Technology GKN Aerospace, said: “We are committed to a more sustainable future for aviation and our technologies will keep us at the forefront of this challenge. No one company can achieve this alone and these Future Flight Challenge programmes highlight the importance of collaboration in achieving this aim.

“It is a great example of public-private collaboration as well as the importance of Government in supporting the aerospace industry, through it’s industrial strategy. We look forward to working together to deliver the next generation of sustainable air travel.” 

The Future Flight Challenge is a four year, £125 million Industrial Strategic Challenge Fund (ISCF) programme from UK Research and Innovation to develop more sustainable aviation solutions. The current phase is focused on the development of integrated aviation systems that enable new classes of electric or autonomous air vehicles.

As well as Skybus, the other programmes led by GKN Aerospace include Safe Flight, which will addresses technological challenges in terms of the integration of a range of cutting-edge technologies in real-world use case demonstrations.

It will also look at the underpinning business need of a clear route to certifiable aircraft systems and approved operations. Supporting this programme will be the University of Bath, 3UG Autonomous Systems and Callen-Lenz.

And finally, NAPKIN –NAPKIN will model and pilot a UK-wide domestic sustainable aviation network promoting zero carbon emissions, connectivity where surface infrastructure is lacking as well as UK business growth and competitiveness.

NAPKIN is led by Heathrow Airport, in collaboration with GKN Aerospace, Rolls Royce, Highlands & Islands Airports, Deloitte, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, London City Airport, University of Southampton, University College London and Cranfield University.

Minister for Business, Paul Scully MP, said: “We’re investing in ambitious projects to make flying more sustainable and ensure passengers have greater choice about how they travel.

“Pioneering research supported by government funding will help the UK build back greener from the pandemic, remain at the forefront of aerospace research and development, and provide global leadership in the next aviation revolution. I look forward to seeing such proposals take flight.”