Ministers have pledged £273m to accelerate the development of futuristic air transport initiatives such as flying taxis, electric planes and rapid-infrastructure-assessment drones.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced the cash injection yesterday as he unveiled 48 winning projects across two major competitions.
A drive to create automated manufacturing capabilities for solar cells to be used on electric aircraft received £6.7m through the Aerospace Technology Institute Programme.
The 31 winners of this contest also included a bid to transfer knowledge from Formula One motor racing into the air taxi market. This was backed to the tune of £11.1m.
Future Flight Challenge
Meanwhile UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) named 17 successful projects through its Future Flight Challenge. These included the proposed 265km South Midlands drone superhighway being led by Skyway in partnership with BT Group, Oxfordshire County Council, and others.
This initiative, which secured £12.9m from the government, aims to speed up parcel deliveries in this corridor as well as boost the use of drones to inspect infrastructure such as motorways and ports.
Project Heart, based in Orkney and Bedford, landed £10m to explore the use of aircraft powered by hydrogen or electricity to open up greener regional connectivity.
Kwarteng said the overall funding package would support the aerospace and aviation sector’s recovery from the pandemic.
“Through funding for the latest in green technology, such as solar and hydrogen powered aircraft, and setting out our vision for the fast-growing market for commercial drones, we are once again placing the aerospace sector directly at the centre of our plans to deliver jobs and grow the economy,” he added.
A new £12m funding pot will be made available through the Regulators’ Pioneer Fund to support work allowing the regulatory environment to keep pace with innovation.
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Robert Courts, transport minister, said: “The steps we have set out today will ensure our aviation sector remains world-leading and fit for the future, helping to deliver on our ambitious climate change goals and boost high-skilled job opportunities.
“Integrating drones into our transport system will play a huge part in better connecting communities, from potentially delivering vital NHS treatments in isolated communities to capturing high quality aerial imaging for rescue teams.”
A Drone Ambition Statement has also been produced to outline how the UK will embed a business environment that supports the development of drone technologies to deliver 650,000 jobs in the sector by 2030.
Measures promised towards this target include a consultation on enabling 5G-connected drones for commercial use, and improvement of public communications to underline the potential benefits of commercial drones.
Image credit: ART STOCK CREATIVE/Shutterstock
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