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GKN Aerospace-led Skybus collaboration project completes successful feasibility studies

  • Skybus research project has identified unique opportunities for air ‘buses’ to operate alongside air taxis in the rapidly growing urban air mobility sector
  • Skybus was launched under the Future Flight Challenge in January 2021 as a GKN Aerospace-led project, in collaboration with Swanson Aviation Consultancy, Pascall+Watson and Connected Places Catapult

The Skybus collaboration project has reached a key milestone by completing the initial feasibility studies. The research project has explored the potential for a six-rotor, 30-person eVTOL concept to help decarbonize and decongest urban landscapes. The studies have identified significant opportunities for air ‘buses’ to feasibly operate alongside air taxis in future air mobility transport networks. The Skybus consortium also developed a Thames-based Vertiport concept as well as economic models and demand forecasts for a London based intra-city use case, with further analyses now to be carried out.

GKN Aerospace is the leading Tier 1 airframe supplier for Urban Air Mobility (UAM) platforms, and leading the Skybus project has helped develop further understanding of the emerging UAM sector.

Skybus was launched in January 2021 in order to explore the feasibility for mass transit eVTOLs of this size to operate from Vertiports on scheduled journeys in the future, akin to bus network on today’s roads. These would operate alongside air taxis to help bypass road congestion in major cities – reducing travel time and emissions – and potentially improve access to more remote areas, such as islands and mountainous regions.  A successful zero emissions mass transit system in the air would also ease congestion on the road network, reducing overall travel time, cost and emissions for all travelers.

Gary Cutts, Future Flight Challenge Director at UK Research and Innovation said: “The Future Flight Challenge has always taken a broad view of the opportunities provided by the many different types of novel clean aircraft emerging. Our market studies show a real potential for a substantial distributed aviation system using the types of aircraft concept envisaged by the Skybus consortium and we welcome the system-wide insights gained from their feasibility studies.”

Russ Dunn, CTO GKN Aerospace said: “We are committed to a more sustainable future for aviation and we believe there is no single solution to achieve this. It will take a range of technologies and collaboration across the whole industry to achieve our net zero goal. Skybus is a great example of GKN Aerospace’s ambition to work in partnership to inspire our customers into new markets, products and technologies.

The Skybus project was funded as part of the Future Flight Challenge, a four-year, £125m Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund programme to develop more sustainable aviation solutions. The current phase is focused on the development of integrated aviation systems that enable new classes of electric or autonomous air vehicles.

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