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UK announces £300m green transport fund

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Chloé Vaughan

The UK Government has promised £125m to the Future Flight Challenge fund for British businesses, with additional industry co-investment of £175m, to support greener modes of transport.

Once the fund opens for applications on 30 September, the project idea or organisation that is selected will be matched with established companies in adjacent sectors in the research and innovation community, who will then be invited to participate in the industry funding.

The FFC expects to see a number of entrants both within and outside of the sector by the fund’s closure in 2023. The programme is set to deliver in four broad areas, which include control and regulation; operating models; ground infrastructure; and aircraft.

Successful applicants will be working collaboratively as the fund encourages a cross-sector transfer of other UK capabilities into aviation such as from autonomous land vehicles.

This investment is set to support the creation and development of green technology including flying urban taxis, electric passenger planes, and freight carrying drones.

Currently there are companies who are already working on green transport methods. These include

Vertical Aerospace

  • The first company in the UK to build and test an eVOTL, electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft. They are designed to work as air taxis in order to revolutionise short haul flying. In September 2018, it was granted flight permission by the Civil Aviation Authority.
  • The Vertical Aerospace eVTOL will be able to accommodate two to four people and aims to reach a speed of 186mph.
  • Last month, Vertical Aerospace became the first Evotl partner of Honeywell Aerospace, a technology and manufacturing company, which will provide VA’s vehicles with HA’s flight systems for urban air mobility. These systems will be integrated into a prototype vehicle in 2020.
  • Vertical Aerospace is currently working with the European Aviation Safety Authority to gain type certification, which signifies airworthiness, for its next aircraft.
  • CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick, who is also the CEO of OVO Energy, outlined plans to provide piloted commercial flights of between 100km to 150km within four years.

Vertical Aerospace Flying Taxi

Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Siemens

  • The collaboration between British-based Rolls-Royce and European companies Airbus and Siemens was established in 2017 to develop technology to create an electrically powered aircraft.
  • In 2021, they plan to fly the E-Fan X, a hybrid passenger aircraft which has one of its jet engines replaced by an electric unit.
  • At the June 2019 Paris Air Show, Rolls-Royce announced its acquisition of Siemen’s electric propulsion arm. This deal is set to be complete by the end of 2019.
  • Eviation, an Israel-based aerospace company revealed its prototype for a total-electric plane this year called ‘Alice’. The passenger plane can seat up to nine people and is powered by a lithium-ion battery. This allows flight for up to 650 miles at 275mph at 10,000ft. It is expected to be in service by 2022.

EFan X Airbus

Bizzby Sky

  • London-based startup is one of the many drone delivery services ready to be enabled when the Civil Aviation Authority, allows their use over populated areas. As this requires law changes to cover drone usage and safety, along with transit planning and safer technology, drone deliveries are not yet legal in the UK.
  • Bizzby Sky provides a collect and deliver on demand service via a mobile phone app. It allows the delivery of items up to 500g, can travel up to 400ft high, and has sensors to detect and avoid collisions.
  • As of last month, UPS in America has applied for certification to begin drone deliveries. The company is currently waiting for a response from aerospace authority the Federal Aviation Administration.

Bizzby Sky Drone

Researchers who are developing electric planes and cleaner jet fuels will receive an additional £5m boost.

This comes alongside £5m funding for five new transport research networks to find and develop cleaner forms of fuel and other tech innovations to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

Funding for flying technology is part of the Future of Flight Challenge delivered by the UK Research & Innovation organisation. It will initially focus on smaller aircrafts and drones to ensure the sustainability of the technology before developing them for larger passenger aircrafts.

An additional £5m of funding was awarded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council.

Research for the new transport networks will be led by University College London, and the universities of Birmingham, Leeds, Durham, and Cardiff.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We rightly want to make decisions that protect the planet. This £300m investment will help speed up the development of greener flights, and new ways of delivering the goods we order online. The UK is already recognised around the world as a centre for green tech. Now we will lengthen our lead, supporting our industry and our citizens to reduce their carbon footprint.”

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