Phase II & COVID-19 Biannual Cohort event: Setting the scene for the UK’s third aviation revolution

Posted on: 01/04/2022

48 grant-funded projects, pioneering the future of UK aviation, flocked to Birmingham's NEC to celebrate achievements and outline developments from the Phase II & COVID-19 funds of the Future Flight Challenge.

The UK’s aviation ecosystem is undergoing a major transformation – think drone deliveries, hydrogen-powered aircraft and pop-up urban airports. Pioneering this change, known as the third aviation revolution, is the Future Flight Challenge (FFC); an ambitious vision that aims to set out the future aviation environment by 2030.

With the programme moving into its final demonstration stage, the Phase II & Covid-19 project Biannual Cohort event, hosted by Innovate UK KTN, was a chance for innovators to come together to celebrate their achievements and outline developments for the UK’s future aviation ecosystem.

In total, 48 grant-funded projects came to pitch their outcomes, findings and plans from the Phase II & COVID-19 funds, which received £33.5 million in government investment. The event brought together businesses, government bodies, research and technology organisations, academia, professional institutions, local authorities, and social scientists from across the UK.

There was plenty on offer from the co-creators of the UK’s new aviation ecosystem, with projects covering everything from 2ZERO’s successful flight demonstration of an Ampaire hybrid-electric Cessna C337 between Exeter and Cornwall Airport; to Atomicus, an integrated solution for the delivery of cargo by drones, that enables unmanned cargo systems to safely share airspace and ground infrastructure with manned aircraft.

To find out more about the types of projects funded through the Future Flight Challenge you can explore KTN’s Landscape Map.

Kicking off the event, there was a welcome and overview from FFC Challenge Director, Gary Cutts, along with a road-mapping and working group outline from Kerissa Khan, FFC Innovation Lead. There was also an update from the Civil Aviation Authority on how Future Flight innovations are beginning to influence regulatory changes. Plus, a talk from the FFC Research Director, Fern Elsdon-Baker, on the ever-increasing role of social science in developing an infrastructure alongside any technological advancements.

Following that, there were two panel discussions; one of which was focused on sector skills and featured representatives from Drone Cloud, Zeroavia, Coventry City Council and ARPAS-UK. The second was a panel on infrastructure with speakers from the AGS Airports, Skyports, Neuron Innovations and Vertical Aerospace.

Being the FFC’s first in-person event in over 2 years, the cohort provided the perfect backdrop for further collaboration. ‘We get to see so many new partners and potential new partnerships being formed at this event,’ said Elizabeth Chau, Head of UTM Strategic Development at NATS. ‘It’s been amazing to see all the successes from Future Flight Phase II and how this will provide further momentum for the next stages of the programme.’

Continuing the positive feedback, Chris Daniels, Chief Commercial Officer at FlareBright said: ‘The FFC is a fantastic community to be a part of – it’s really helped us connect with the wider industry. It’s great to get the industry together and learn about what other projects are doing.’

To conclude the event, Gary Cutts, FFC Director from UKRI, shared his thoughts: ‘The Future Flight Challenge has always been a highly collaborative programme where this new aviation industry comes together to co-create the future. It was amazing to see the breadth of Phase 2 projects represented at this event, but especially the enthusiasm to continue to share and work with each other to make the challenge a success for the UK.’

If you would like to find out more about the Future Flight Challenge you can visit the website, register for the newsletter or contact the team directly.

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Michelle Carter

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