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Flying taxis and short haul plane journeys powered by hydrogen: how the future of flight could look in 2030

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the UK’s research and innovation agency, has set out its vision for the future of air travel in Britain.

Compiled by leading experts from industry, academia and government, the Future Flight Vision and Roadmap sets out how zero emission air travel within and between British cities could be commonplace within a decade.

UKRI’s Future Flight Deputy Challenge Director Simon Masters said,

“Achieving accessible, safe, sustainable transport will be a key element in the fight against climate change. That’s why in the year of COP26, UKRI is setting out what it thinks air travel should look like in 2030.

“Some of the concepts in this roadmap might seem a little further away than 2030, but the future is closer than you think. We’re already seeing some these ideas put into practice, with the UK’s first vertical takeoff airport months from opening and a hybrid air travel trial taking place in Scotland at this very moment.”

Lower congestion, lower emissions

One of the key elements of the roadmap is the use of hydrogen or electrically powered aircraft to provide short journeys for up to 10 people. These vertical-takeoff air taxis would eliminate carbon emissions, ease congestion in British cities and reduce journey times for travelers.

The same is true of the increased use of drones by emergency services and for delivering goods. These will provide rapid and convenient access to everyday goods and services, while also supporting emergency services in undertaking complex inspections and operations.

Also in the roadmap are sustainably powered small aircraft to provide short regional flights, providing transportation between towns and cities and serving more remote communities. These would then link in with other transport modes within a city, allowing for a seamless, end to end travel experience.

Current developments

The publication of the roadmap comes as aviation company Ampaire launches a week of hybrid electric light aircraft flight trials. The company, who are part of the UKRI-funded Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE) project, recently undertook a demonstration flight where one of their hybrid electric EEL aircrafts completed a 30-minute journey from Kirkwall in the Orkney Isles to Wick airport in the North of Scotland.

Over in Coventry as part of its 2021 City of Culture programme the Air-One project, led by Urban-Air Port and supported by Coventry City Council is working on setting up the world’s smallest airport. Specifically designed to support electric vertical take off and landing aircraft this pop-up airport can be deployed in days, in an area 60% smaller than a standard helipad and with minimal impact on the environment.

Further information

About the Future Flight Challenge

The aviation system of the future needs more than just aircraft. The world is shaping up for a third revolution in aviation, one that sees greener, more flexible ways to fly. The Future Flight Challenge is a £300 million programme designed to secure the UK’s position at the front of the revolution. 

The Challenge aims to transform how we connect people, deliver goods and provide services by speeding up the acceptance of these innovative ways and bringing them into use safely and practically. By combining control and regulation with infrastructure and aircraft systems to create new operating models the Challenge is creating the aviation system of the future. 

For more information, go to Future flight challenge – UKRI.

About UK Research and Innovation

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is the largest public funder of research and innovation in the UK, with a budget of around £8bn. It is composed of seven disciplinary research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.

We operate across the whole country and work with our many partners in higher education, research organisations businesses, government, and charities.

Our vision is for an outstanding research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit, enriching lives locally, nationally and internationally.   

Our mission is to convene, catalyse and invest in close collaboration with others to build a thriving, inclusive research and innovation system that connects discovery to prosperity and public good.


About Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund aims to bring together the UK’s world leading research with business to meet the major industrial and societal challenges of our time.

The fund was created to provide funding and support to UK businesses and researchers, part of the government’s £4.7 billion increase in research and development over the next 4 years.

It was designed to ensure that research and innovation takes centre stage in the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy. It is run by UK Research and Innovation.

About SATE

SATE is the UK’s first operationally based aviation test centre based at Kirkwall Airport in Orkney. Launched as part of UKRI’s Future Flight Challenge which supports the development of greener ways to fly, the project will test different types of low-carbon aircraft to identify the next generation of air services as well as the operational airport infrastructure necessary to support sustainable aviation.

SATE will also address the challenge to improve UK regional air connectivity and helping to decarbonise the Highlands and Islands region, the innovative project will stimulate job creation and use local renewable energy, supporting Orkney’s net-zero ambitions.

Led by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, the SATE project brings together an international consortium of 13 partners including aviation industry specialists, local Orkney and Caithness businesses, public sector bodies and academia.

About Ampaire

Ampaire Inc. is leading the charge in aircraft electrification. The Los Angeles-based company’s mission is to be the world’s most trusted developer of practical and compelling electric aircraft. To start, the company is upgrading existing passenger aircraft to electric power—the quickest and most capital efficient approach to making commercial electric air travel a reality. Ampaire Ltd. is the subsidiary company. For more information, visit www.ampaire.com.

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