What could air travel look like in less than a decade?

UKRI Future Flight

Look up to the skies and you could soon see our sun and moon being obscured by hundreds of flying taxis, drone deliveries and short haul plane journeys powered by hydrogen or batteries.

UKRI, the government’s the UK’s research and innovation agency, has published its vision for a future aviation system which could power the UK as a global leader in advanced aviation. And whatever you think about sending travel further into our skies it’s going to mean a massive change to how we live our lives.

UKRI’s Future Flight Challenge is a £300 million programme, jointly funded by the UK government and industry, to position the UK as a world-leader in the third aviation revolution.

Future Flight, which consist of drones, advanced air mobility and regional air mobility, will transform how people, transport goods and deliver services can be connected in a sustainable way providing socioeconomic benefits using new classes of air vehicles with novel technologies.

The four-year programme, which brought together stakeholders from multiple sectors beyond aviation and aerospace, is creating the future aviation system and will demonstrate the safe integration and operation of drones, advanced air mobility and regional aircraft, with advancements in electrification and autonomy by 2024.

The Future Flight Challenge has brought together stakeholders from multiple sectors beyond aviation and aerospace, to help position the UK for a share in the multibillion-dollar market by 2030.

The global market for drones, AAM and supporting services is projected to be approximately $74 billion by 2035, and there are 76,000 droned projected to be in use by industry in the UK by 2030.

The research has revealed that there is predicted to be a 1.8 per cent increase in GBP and £16 billion in net cost savings to the UK economy by 2030 through drone services.

Drones are unpiloted, non-passenger carrying vehicles varying in size. They will be used to improve deliveries and support our emergency services and perform complex inspections and operations (we are assuming this doesn’t mean medical operations, though the research isn’t as clear about that as it should be).

Then there’s Advanced Air Mobility. This is electrical vertical take-off and landing vehicles that provide short journeys for up to 10 people. This would reduce congestion on our roads and reduce journey times.

Finally there’s regional air mobility. This is defined as 10+ person electric, hydrogen or hybrid aircraft providing short-medium range hops between fixed locations.