The UK Civil Aviation Authority has established an international consortium of eVTOL aircraft industry leaders and aviation experts, which will consider the safety challenges needed to be solved to allow air taxis and drones to come to market.
Known as the eVTOL Safety Leadership Group (eVSLG), the group was announced at Helitech Expo yesterday (Tuesday) and features eVTOL OEMs such as Vertical Aerospace and Joby Aviation.
Other companies which are also part of the group include Bristow Helicopters, Air Accident Investigation branch, British Helicopter Association, Flexjet, General Aviation Safety Council (GASCo), NATS and Virgin Atlantic.
The group is Co-Chaired by the Head of the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s Rapid Capabilities Office, Rick Newson, and Matt Rhodes from Bristow Helicopters, who is also co-Chair of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Leadership Group. In a press release announcing the news, memberships for the group are expected to increase in the coming weeks.
Newson, said: “The formation of the eVSLG consortium is a significant milestone toward a future of eVTOL aircraft and drone taxis becoming a reality in UK airspace. With commercial operations potentially starting in the next five years, it is vital that a strong safety culture is built into the heart of eVTOL operations.
“The UK is a global leader for aviation innovation, and this group will provide a space for organisations to collaborate and create of world-first technologies, tried and tested in a safe environment.”
While eVTOL aircraft are not yet in operation, they have the potential to launch commercially in the UK within the next five years. In order to begin operations and receive regulatory approval, any aircraft needs to stand up to the strictest standards of aviation safety.
The eVSLG consortium is an open space for industry and is outside of usual Civil Aviation Authority governance and assurance processes. As the UK’s aviation and aerospace safety regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority has facilitated the eVSLG to demonstrate its commitment to continue the sector’s high aviation standards into innovative and future aviation sector operations. It expects the consortium will empower the eVTOL market to successfully take off and retain the UK’s highest levels of aviation safety.
Rhodes added: “The vertical flight industry has evolved significantly over the last half century. Many of the lessons learned, practices and procedures that have been developed over this period, will undoubtedly read across into this new era of powered vertical flight.
“eVTOL aircraft represent a significant and revolutionary step change in this industry necessitating that safety processes continue to evolve in line with this fast moving and dynamic technology. We are committed to a collaborative approach to the sharing of safety critical data and best practices to assure our success.”
Joby Aviation and Vertical Aerospace are two of the main eVTOL OEMs with a clear path to certification, with both companies aiming to launch commercial services as early as 2024. While Joby is already publicly trading on the New York Stock Exchange, following a joint business merger with Reinvent Technology Partners, Vertical expects to complete their business merger with Broadstone Acquisition Corp by the end of this year.
Vertical announced up to 1,000 pre-orders for its VA-X4 eVTOL aircraft, with Virgin Atlantic taking up an option to order between 50 and 150 aircraft. It plans to work with Vertical as part of a joint venture to develop a Virgin Atlantic-branded short haul eVTOL network in the UK. This will look connect UK airport hubs, starting with London Heathrow as well as Manchester and London Gatwick.