GKN Aerospace is to lead a trio of new programs to advance sustainable aviation technology. The UK-based group will be coordinating 15 other organizations in work backed by a £4.5 million ($6.1 million) investment from the government’s Future Flight Challenge fund.
The most eye-catching of the three initiatives is Skybus, which is described as a large eVTOL aircraft that would carry between 30 and 50 passengers. Working with Swanson Aviation Consultancy, architects Pascall & Watson, and Connected Places Catapult, the GKN team will develop a concept for using the proposed vehicle to reduce group congestion by operating a “park and ride” service to move passengers between points currently connected by cars, buses, and trains.
It was not made clear in the February 2 announcement whether the partners will actually build a prototype of Skybus that could be flown in trial operations. GKN is a specialist in aerostructures using composite materials, as well as additive manufacturing and the production of engine components and smart transparencies for aircraft.
The Safe Flight project will address the challenges involved in introducing unmanned and autonomous air vehicles into existing airspace, as well as seek to establish a path for certifying these aircraft and their supporting technology. GKN’s partners for this work include the University of Bath, 3UG Autonomous Systems, and aviation consultants Callen-Lenz.
Finally, the NAPKIN project will model what GKN described as “a UK-wide sustainable aviation network” to combine the goals of achieving zero carbon emissions for flights while also providing more efficient connections to remote parts of the country than surface transportation allows. NAPKIN stands for New Aviation, Propulsion, Knowledge and Innovation Network. The work is being led by London Heathrow Airport, supported by GKN, Rolls-Royce, Highlands & Islands Airports (in Scotland), Deloitte, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, London City Airport, the University of Southampton, University College London, and Cranfield University.
Last week, GKN announced a £54 million program called H2GEAR, which will seek to develop a hydrogen propulsion system to power a 19-seat aircraft. The company's partners for this venture include fuel-cell specialist Intelligent Energy, electric motors and control systems group Aeristech, Newcastle University, the University of Manchester, and the University of Birmingham.