Aviation accelerator helps innovative firms take off

As the latest Future of Air Mobility Accelerator draws to a close, this year’s cohort reflects on how far they’ve come and what the future has in store.

Nine technology companies with clever systems to improve drone operation, develop the vertiport market and create better ways to power aircraft, control airspace and assist passengers have completed a six-month programme delivered by Connected Places Catapult.

The firms took part in the second Future of Air Mobility Accelerator, which culminated in a showcase of their technologies to the Sustainable Skies World Summit at Farnborough Airport in April.

We spoke to each company about their systems, canvassed their thoughts on the future of aviation and explored how the Catapult has helped them on their journey. Here is what representatives of each firm at the show told us:


Aaron Erwin, project manager for Firstco, which develops software for the remote operation and management of vertiport networks, says: “The advanced air mobility sector is developing rapidly and vertiports have great potential to be a part of the next generation of transport. Very congested cities may also welcome another method of transport and our platform aims to help this become a reality.

“The Accelerator has been great, with Connected Places Catapult offering business development, marketing and funding to develop our platform. The programme partners and other cohort SMEs have provided great insights and information.”


John Goudie, founder of vertiport automation technology company SLiNK-TECH said: “We have developed an automatic take-off and landing system for vertiports called PORTAL and hope to have the technology adopted by the logistics sector and future eVTOL businesses. Connected Places Catapult gave us investment advice and feedback on our demonstrations.”

“We have been to workshops and it has been fascinating to speak with different innovation companies and learn from them. Being invited to the Sustainable Skies World Summit helped open doors and allowed us to speak to people we wouldn’t normally meet.”
Project Manager, SLiNK-TECH, Alissa Suddell


Chris Daniels, chief commercial officer at drone software company FlareBright said: “Our software can be implemented into any drone and uses machine learning to optimise route planning, check drones are flying properly and allows them to operate if GPS signals are compromised. With GPS denial, spoofing and compromise becoming more commonplace, this is a critical enabler for drone operations.

“It would be great if Government set up a dedicated test zone with minimal regulatory bureaucracy for drones and air taxis to help keep the UK in the lead in this area. Working with the programme allowed us to carry out interesting work at Heathrow, which we never would have been able to do without the Catapult’s help.”


Hal Newberry, co-founder of Skyverse which has developed a cloud-based air traffic management platform said: “Our software replaces traditional paper-based systems enabling cost, efficiency and safety benefits to aerodromes. Through greater collaboration, we can accelerate the future of aviation.

“Connected Places Catapult introduced us to specialists we would not otherwise have had access to. We enhanced our business capabilities in key areas such as PR and marketing through structured one to one workshops. It was a fantastic learning experience which will allow us to use specific strategies in the future.”


Gary Kendall, director of CDO2, developer of advanced battery systems for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. “Technology within our batteries allows us to monitor the current in every cell, which will provide more certainty for aircraft landing vertically. The technology we have is ready to go, and the next step will be to use it on an eVTOL carrying passengers.

“The Accelerator gave us access to additional resources such as business support and strategy, while also enabling us to run a trial with an established tier one aerospace supplier.”


Inteliportschief executive David Majoe says his company’s automated drone port logistics offering is showing good promise. “We hope in the next few years we can develop a commercial operation in the Solent, showing how automated drone logistics can be feasible.

“Whenever there is a natural landscape barrier, such as water, drones can fly over it quicker than other transport modes. Technology is progressing fast and we are seeing a lot of interest in remote operations.

“The Accelerator programme provided us with business and marketing support and helped us trial the technology.”


Software technology firm Transreport is extending its Passenger Assistance app for use by disabled airport users. Chief operating officer Waleed Ahmed said: “Our app is already used in the rail sector and we will be introducing it to aviation, so disabled passengers can request assistance.

“Aviation is a great and growing sector ready to be supported by companies wanting to improve the passenger experience. Connected Places Catapult provided us with an opportunity to develop a proof of concept with a very large airport and we are looking at how the app can be made to work between rail and air.”


ANGOKA builds cyber security solutions for unmanned air vehicles including drones. “It is very important to develop cyber security; we are seeing threat levels increasing and there is a need to secure data that flows between devices,” says chief executive Yuri Andersson.

“Security needs to be built in right from the start, and we also need support from regulators to govern the future of air mobility.

“We have been fortunate to be part of Future of Air Mobility Accelerator, to work with a set of large companies and understand their needs for securing data.”

LiveLink Aerospace

LiveLink Aerospace specialises in surveillance systems for identifying and tracking aircraft during flight. Operations director Ben Keene says traditional methods of tracking aircraft such as long-range radar are not suited to certain environments, such as urban areas or airspace below 500 feet.

As a result, the company is developing surveillance solutions for challenging environments including urban airspace. “We have benefitted from the Accelerator programme, which prompted new collaborations and exposed us to a new opportunity which we are now pursuing,” he says.

“We have benefitted from the Accelerator programme, which prompted new collaborations and exposed us to a new opportunity which we are now pursuing,”

The second round of the Future of Air Mobility Accelerator was carried out in partnership with the Future Flight Challenge, delivered by Innovate UK for UK Research and Innovation.

Several large employers helped the nine technology companies take forward their ideas. They were Supernal, BAE Systems, GKN Aerospace, Heathrow, Cranfield University, Coventry University, the UK Civil Aviation Authority and standards body BSI.