Radical changes are coming to the aerospace sector – we will see the sector more closely integrated into the wider transportation sector, enabling highly efficient, environmentally friendly, quiet and seamless multi-modal transport and mobility. The UK has the ambition, technological innovation and world-class research capabilities to lead this revolution, making history once again. We pioneered the jet engine to change the face of air travel internationally, and once again we will be central to transforming urban and regional air transport.

To achieve this ambition, the UK needs a strong partnership between aircraft manufacturers and designers, airline businesses, airport and airspace providers, research organisations, academia and Government. The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) has taken the initiative to build that partnership and lead it on behalf of the aviation sector to develop the expression of interest for the Amy Johnson Challenge of ‘Advancing Mobility Through Flight’. The Amy Johnson Challenge aims to enable the development of technologies, systems, infrastructures, operations, policies and regulations that will provide the foundation of a more electric, highly autonomous integrated aviation system for the future of mobility.

Opportunities

The combination of electrification and autonomy will enable new mobility concepts, such as autonomous electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) for application in areas such as urban air transport. These vehicles would compete with traditional taxis and other urban transport; all-electric propulsion would be much cheaper than conventional means of powering aircraft and offer zero emissions for low urban impact; autonomy would enable operation in crowded urban environments for accessibility. Small all-electric sub-regional fixed-wing aircraft, exploiting small regional airports, could transport up to 20 people cleanly, efficiently and cost effectively against land-based transport modes. Larger aircraft could adopt hybrid turbo-electric power and propulsion systems for higher fuel efficiency. These examples illustrate how the electrification of aircraft systems combined with autonomy have the potential to create new aerospace market segments, as well as enabling significant efficiency improvements in established segments – they all create significant supply chain opportunities in the UK.

Looking ahead

The Institute is publishing an INSIGHT paper on Electrical Power Systems – the ATI’s seventh paper in the series. The document will discuss the increasing importance of electrical power systems in current and future commercial aircraft, and identify new market sectors that are dependent on enhanced technologies for such systems. The paper will enable wider consultation on electrical power systems in support of future updates to the ATI’s technology strategy, Raising Ambition.

Copies of the INSIGHT paper will be available on the ATI’s stand at the Farnborough Airshow later this month (16th – 22nd July)- come and find us in Hall 3, in the Innovation, at stand 3694.

Mark Scully, ATI’s Head of Technology for Advanced Systems and Propulsion said:

Electrification and the development of more electrical aircraft are a key focus for the ATI. We are seeing developments being accelerated in this area across the sector. The UK industry is well placed to take advantage of the more electric, or all electric aircraft and novel electric propulsion systems, supported by investment in technology development.

Electric and autonomous aircraft have tremendous opportunity to impact the future of mobility and the productivity of the UK, particularly in urban and regional transportation. The ATI is specifically looking at developments and technologies that will support more autonomous or fully autonomous, and electric and hybrid-electric aircraft of the future.

The Institute will continue to convene industry, research technology organisations and academia to develop and deliver electrical power systems technology to maximise UK economic value.