The tech leaders shaping the future of airspace

The time is ripe for the aerospace and technology sectors to collaborate towards a more integrated approach to alternative transportation and fuel options. And it’s an ideal opportunity to position the UK as a world leader in new aviation technology.

The Airspace of the Future (AoF) Consortium, which comprises Thales, Cranfield University, Cranfield Airport Operations, Inmarsat, Altitude Angel, Ocado Group, Blue Bear, Satellite Applications Catapult, and Connected Places Catapult. The group, which will work to integrate drone services within the wider UK transport ecosystem, has been formed in response to UK Research and Innovation’s .

Airspace of the Future: What is it?

The challenge is investing up to £125 million to develop greener ways to fly, such as all-electric aircraft and deliveries by drone, by advancing electric and autonomous flight technologies. The investment is matched by £175 million from industry.

The challenge aims to bring together technologies in electrification, aviation systems and autonomy to create new modes of air travel and capability.

The breadth of the Airspace of the Future study extends across the key interlinked domains of regulatory framework development and compliance, enabling technologies and toolsets (such a digital twins and simulation). It will also address key societal issues such as validation of public acceptance of commercial drone operations.

Partnerships at Work

Connected Places Catapult, in partnership with ZeroAvia, have built the first landside to airside hydrogen refuelling pipeline, with a trolley for aircraft refuelling. Being the first in the UK to operate at high pressure, the pipeline enables the full ecosystem use of hydrogen in an airport environment; from production, storage, and to the aircraft for refuelling.

It’s predicted that landside to airside hydrogen refuelling pipeline tests will complete in 2024 and be available for public integration in the same year.

Public awareness

Combined stakeholder consultations and by abiding by standard Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) processes, ensures the public are duly notified and appropriately informed.

Planned safety precautions

All operations and demonstrations will be conducted in accordance with the required regulations, including obtaining the necessary CAA authorisations.


Importantly, the Future Flight Challenge will create the aviation system of the future by driving technology investment to the UK. Increases UK manufacturing and service opportunities will see advances in electric and autonomous flight technologies, helping the UK reach its net zero target.

Further reading on The Future Flight Challenge – Future Flight Challenge

ZeroAvia overcame the challenges of a small company, with funding from the Zero Emissions Flight Infrastructure (ZEFI) programme, helping them to accelerate commercialisation and address questions from the aviation industry.

ZeroAvia project demonstration