GKN Aerospace to accelerate sustainable flight technologies, including eVTOL aircraft, in UK’s Future Flight Challenge

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.”

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Jason Pritchard

Jason Pritchard is the Editor of eVTOL Insights. He holds a BA from Leicester's De Montfort University and has worked in Journalism and Public Relations for more than a decade. Outside of work, Jason enjoys playing and watching football and golf. He also has a keen interest in Ancient Egypt.

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