The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

On The Radar

UK's Future Flight Challenge Publish Advanced Air Mobility Safety Study and Action Plan

The UK government-backed Future Flight Challenge (FFC) initiative to advance sustainable aviation technology and operations this week launched its Aviation Safety Framework. The study commissioned by the FFC and published on July 12 lays out detailed guidelines for a future aviation system, including both autonomous and piloted aircraft and their supporting technologies.

Research for the report was conducted by urban development engineering group Egris and the University of York. Its core purpose is to analyze the main safety management challenges associated with new aircraft applications through case studies for both urban and regional air mobility, as well as drone deliveries.

The others call for the advanced air mobility sector to prioritize four key areas of action as follows: the development of a concept of operations for the envisioned future aviation system; establishing safety targets for aircraft operations under different use cases; establishing risk baselines, taking into account both current aircraft operations projected risks associated with the industry’s envisioned future concepts of operations; and setting up safety work programs to advance the overall FFC safety objectives.

The case studies evaluated envisioned scaling up of the use of eVTOL aircraft and drones across three phases—short-, -medium, and long-term, spanning 2025 to 2035. For the urban air mobility use case, the team considered applications including short intra-city air taxi flights, airport commutes, and longer on-demand flights of up to 200 miles. For regional air mobility, it envisioned aircraft potentially carrying up to around 100 passengers and powered with hybrid-electric or hydrogen propulsion.

Members of the working group who reviewed the 179-page study’s finding included Isabel del-Pozo, Airbus head of unmanned traffic management; independent consultant Darrell Swanson; Tim Williams, CEO of UK-based eVTOL aircraft developer Vertical Aerospace; and David Morgan, EasyJet director of flight operations.

"When it comes to the development of new technologies that will be critical to the society of tomorrow, it's not simply the technology itself that needs support and research," commented Future Flight Challenge director Gary Cutts, who was also on the review group. "Safety and regulation will be critical components of any changes to the aviation sector, whether for autonomous or human use. We, therefore, commissioned this in-depth research to consider exactly how the industry, its regulators and wider stakeholders will need to adapt to the safety systems, risk assessment, and legislation needed to manage and monitor the new aviation landscape."

The Future Flight Challenge is backed by around £300 million ($414 million) in funding from the UK Research and Innovation agency in an effort to secure a leading role for British industry in what it calls the "third revolution in aviation."