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Drone gains increase options for next-generation aviation

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the US$387 million Future Flight Challenge are making new rounds in the UK aviation industry by bringing together technologies in electrification, digital, and autonomy, reports London's Air Cargo News

11 October 2020 - 19:00

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the US$387 million Future Flight Challenge are making new rounds in the UK aviation industry by bringing together technologies in electrification, digital, and autonomy, reports London's Air Cargo News.

The project is expected to create opportunities for aviation businesses across the UK and will fund technology research and development.



Currently, there are countless highly capable industrial drones in operation that provide surveying services. Still, these are primarily flown by a remote pilot in a visual line of the sight with the aircraft, and because of the perceived threats to passenger-carrying aircraft, they're typically excluded from controlled airspace.



As a result, the process of autonomy to flight control and digital enabling air traffic, management will soon allow these drones to fly with greater volumes and in closer proximity to each other.



This will allow them to fly into dense urban locations but to be able to fly airside in airports to connect with the traditional aviation system.



Aside from the developments, the growing aircraft capabilities from battery technologies and new electrical machines will potentially allow an end to end airborne delivery system.



'When we consider the ability to land such aircraft directly in distribution centres without the need for traditional airports, the possibilities for multi-modal transport become clear as does a new marketplace for air cargo operators. Initial studies under the Future Flight Challenge already show the economic viability of such larger drone delivery services,' said Future Flight director Gary Cutts.



'Turning our attention to larger, next-generation aircraft the Challenge will fund several advanced air mobility vehicle system demonstrations. Many envisage that these will primarily move three to four people on short hops around cities,' Mr Cutts said.



'But once you have the capability for multiple journeys between charging with this kind of payload and with the ability to take off and land vertically, surely there are possibilities for such a piloted aircraft as a cargo vehicle,' he said.



With the increase in concerns regarding climate change and the government's commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050, cleaner modes of transport will be required.



The switch to home delivery is an established trend that can be accelerated by the Covid pandemic, because of reluctance to shop in person and a shift to working from home.



Public acceptance may be an issue with these new modes of aviation, but many feel it's critical to the emergence of the market. General concerns include noise, intrusion, and perceptions of aviation safety that will need to be addressed.


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