Airspace of the Future

Background

Airspace of the Future is one of a number of projects as part of Future Flight Challenge delivered by Innovate UK on behalf of UKRI. The consortium consists of nine partners: Thales, Cranfield University, Cranfield Airport Operations, Inmarsat, Altitude Angel, Ocado Group, Blue Bear, Satellite Applications Catapult and Connected Places Catapult. The group has brought together a breadth of skill, experience and world-leading domain expertise and facilities to deliver this national challenge.  

The consortium are working together to integrate drone services within the wider UK transport ecosystem to ensure this can be carried out safely, more efficiently and at the same time being more environmentally conscious.  As well as using a holistic system of systems approach to address the interdependencies between drones, the airspace and the aviation ecosystem includes regulators, traffic management system, service providers and end users.

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) and will also address key societal issues such as validation of public acceptance of commercial drone operations.  

In the coming months we will be releasing a number of reports and white papers across multiple subjects. We will also be conducting simulated and live trials later in the project with more information on those to come. 

The Future Flight Challenge Programme is funded by £125 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to find out more about the challenge visit the UKRI website

Check back here for updates on the Airspace of the Future project. 

Who is involved?

The delivery team comprises a complimentary mix of partners who have articulated a common vision statement that accommodates governmental, large industrial, SME, research and end user perspectives. The partners are:

  • Thales UK (lead partner)
  • Blue Bear
  • Altitude Angel
  • Inmarsat
  • Ocado Group
  • Cranfield Airport Operations
  • Cranfield University
  • Satellite Applications Catapult
  • Connected Places Catapult
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1.What is Airspace of the future?  

Airspace of the Future is a project which sits under UKRI’s Future Flight Challenge programme. 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. It will:  

  • create the aviation system of the future  
  • increase mobility, improve connectivity and reduce congestion for people across the UK  
  • advance electric and autonomous flight technologies to help the UK reach its net zero target  
  • drive technology investment to the UK by increasing UK manufacturing and service opportunities.  

  

2.What are the project’s main aims?  

The consortium aims to tackle the challenges of Future Flight using a holistic system of systems approach to address the interdependencies between drones, the airspace and the aviation ecosystem, including regulators, traffic management system, service providers and end users.  

3. Will the public be made aware?   

Stakeholder consultations will be conducted and standard Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) processes will be used to ensure activities are notified and promulgated.

4.What safety precautions will happen during demonstrations?  

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