Nine drone and aviation organizations in the UK have come together to respond to the Future Flight Challenge (FFC) of UK research and innovation. The AoF (Airspace of the Future) consortium includes Thales, Cranfield University, Cranfield Airport Operations, Inmarsat, Altitude Angel, Ocado Group, Blue Bear, Katapult for satellite applications and Katapult for connected places. The group will work together to “integrate drone services into the broader UK transportation ecosystem,” said a press release.
“Multimodal traffic” is a key term in the areas of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and Smart City Planning. It is the idea that drones – and bicycles, electric vehicles, self-driving cars, and public transportation – should be integrated into a transportation system that enables communities to make the most of the most effective and appropriate means available to move people and goods on the ground or in the air. The FFC is focused on adding cleanliness and air options to the system: “The FFC supports the development of new technologies in the UK, including cargo drones, urban aircraft and regional hybrid electric aircraft. It will be funded with £ 125 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which in turn is expected to add up to £ 175 million from the industry, the press release said. “Advances in electric and autonomous flight technology will increase mobility, reduce road congestion, improve connectivity, expand manufacturing capabilities in the UK and reduce the environmental impact of aviation worldwide.”
The future airspace project will help integrate drones into the transport system. “Integration” in the drone industry generally means the integration of drones into the common airspace with manned vehicles. In this context, the integration of drone technology into the transport system not only means proof that “routine, operational drone services” can be carried out safely, but that the supporting infrastructure is effectively planned and used. “The group will work to integrate quieter, more efficient and greener aircraft into the rest of the transportation infrastructure to ensure that aircraft can fly to and from a low-cost network of small operating bases,” the press release said.
“The group will also develop the supporting ground infrastructure, regulatory and control systems needed to make these new aircraft practical and safe while demonstrating the value of mixed-use airspace through innovative simulations and real world applications.”
Alex Cresswell, CEO of Thales UK, commented: “Today Thales air traffic management systems control two-thirds of the world’s manned airspace, enabling two out of three aircraft to take off or land safely. The opportunity to bring this knowledge and experience to the fledgling unmanned traffic management market is extremely exciting and will help revolutionize the sector. “
“We are excited to lead the Future Consortium’s airspace, which will continue to innovate the booming UTM market by leveraging new technologies to develop supportive ground infrastructure and air control systems. Leveraging the expertise of some of the UK’s most pioneering technology and transportation companies, the consortium will help create new, greener ways of providing air services for tasks such as inspection, surveying and delivery of goods by drones. We are delighted that the consortium is part of the UK Government’s drive to lead the world from the front to tackle the climate crisis. Ahead of the November COP26 conference, we look forward to showing how the UK, as a scientific superpower, supports these efforts. “
“In this very challenging time for the international aviation industry, it is great proof of the drive and ambition of Great Britain that we have responded so strongly to the first funded Future Flight competition. The breadth, quality and creativity of the offers were exceptional and the economic and social benefits offered are very significant. The projects we are launching now will strongly position the UK to drive the third revolution in aviation, ”said Gary Cutts, Future Flight Challenge Director.
Miriam McNabb is editor-in-chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, and a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has written over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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