“Every time I carry out research into future urban air mobility systems, I am one step closer to my dream,” remarks Dr Ye Yuan, an aerospace engineering lecturer from Swansea University. He is convinced that one day electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft will become a convenient and environmentally sustainable means of travel for people in and between urban centres.
Ye Yuan grew up close to a helicopter airbase in the Chinese city of Jinan, which has a population similar to that of London, and would often watch helicopters take off and land. “I always thought helicopters were cool and looked great, and I wanted to fly one.
“But when I was 16 or 17 years old I learnt that issues with my right ear meant I could never become a pilot, as you need to have hearing in both ears to pass the training and get your licence. So I thought, ok, what if the helicopter could fly all by itself?”
After studying in China, he moved to the UK and became a post-doctoral researcher at Glasgow University specialising in aerospace engineering. Eighteen months ago he transferred across to Swansea University, while at around the same time securing £30,000 of funding for his work from the Department for Transport’s Transport Research & Innovation Grant programme delivered in partnership with Connected Places Catapult.
The money helped to support his ongoing research into autonomous air mobility systems, and the Catapult also helped Ye Yuan to foster new connections.