Feasibility study examines eVTOL ‘air bus’ concept in U.K.

Avatar for eVTOLBy eVTOL | February 28, 2022

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 31 seconds.

While the potential for an “air bus” that would carry upwards of 30 passengers in the sky is likely decades away, a new feasibility study led by GKN Aerospace, a tier 1 global aerospace supplier, looks at how future air buses could be integrated with air mobility transportation networks if or when the technology becomes available.

GKN Aerospace Skybus
The Skybus consortium has completed an initial feasibility study that explores the potential for a six-rotor, 30-person eVTOL air bus to be integrated with air mobility transportation networks. Pascall+Watson Image

In collaboration with Swanson Aviation Consultancy, Pascall+Watson, and Connected Places Catapult, GKN Aerospace launched the Skybus research project under the U.K.’s Future Flight Challenge in January 2021.

The company recently announced it has completed its initial feasibility study that explores the potential for a six-rotor, 30-person eVTOL air bus to be integrated in existing and future transportation modes — if improvements to propulsion systems and energy density can be attained to develop such a vehicle.

The Skybus consortium also developed a vertiport concept near the Thames River in London, which includes economic models and demand forecasts to analyze intracity travel.

“We are committed to a more sustainable future for aviation, and we believe there is no single solution to achieve this,” said Russ Dunn, chief technology officer at GKN Aerospace, in a press release. “Skybus is a great example of GKN Aerospace’s ambition to work in partnership to inspire our customers into new markets, products, and technologies.”

The Future Flight Challenge is a four-year, £125 million (US$167.5 million) program aimed at developing more sustainable aviation solutions. The current phase is focused on the development of integrated aviation systems that allow for new classes of electric or autonomous air vehicles.

“The Future Flight Challenge has always taken a broad view of the opportunities provided by the many different types of novel clean aircraft emerging,” said Gary Cutts, Future Flight Challenge director at U.K. Research and Innovation. “Our market studies show a real potential for a substantial distributed aviation system using the types of aircraft concept envisaged by the Skybus consortium, and we welcome the system-wide insights gained from their feasibility studies.”

Besides its interest in a potential air bus project down the road, GKN Aerospace is also supporting eVTOL projects aimed at launching in the near-term, such as Vertical Aerospace’s VX4 eVTOL.

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