On The Radar
UK air navigation service provider NATS and multiple partners recently concluded a series of simulation exercises to assess how eVTOL aircraft can best be integrated into the country’s public airspace. In a report published this week, members of the Advanced Mobility Ecosystem Consortium summarized how they are preparing for planned demonstration flights in late 2024.
The consortium is part of the government-backed Future Flight Challenge with funding from UK Research and Innovation. Its members include British eVTOL aircraft developer Vertical Aerospace, as well as Virgin Atlantic Airways; AtkinsRéalis; Skyports; Heathrow, Bristol, and London City airports; the Connected Places Catapult; and Cranfield and Warwick universities.
During the exercises, NATS simulated eVTOL flights from Bristol in the west of England through the airspace around Farnborough Airport and then into London City Airport. The flights “operated” alongside existing air traffic and in controlled airspace with no disruption to operations.
Under a concept of operations proposed by NATS, each eVTOL operator would file its flight plans via an app, and these would then be approved or amended as necessary. Before takeoff, the company’s Airspace Manager system will deconflict the eVTOL vehicles from other nearby aircraft and then monitor the airspace from a digital control room. Digital voice communications between eVTOL pilots and air traffic control would be required only in exceptional circumstances. During the simulations, a controller handled the Airspace Manager function but NATS envisages this being entirely automated in the future.