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UK government dishes out £7m for new aviation tech

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Projects which will explore medical deliveries by drone, hydrogen delivery aircraft, and retrofitting aircraft with electric propulsion are among 20 to receive funding from the UK government.

The £7m funding is part of the £33.5m available via the 'Future Flight Challenge', which aims to develop technologies to enable new classes of aircraft and reduce reliance on road transport, including through the development of air taxis and electric and autonomous aircraft.

A further 28 projects are in the pipeline for funding. These include air taxis, drones and regional aircraft using electric or autonomous technologies. 

Half of the projects awarded funding will focus their efforts on the coronavirus pandemic.

“Innovation delivers real change and our support for dynamic ideas in this exciting sector means we are now seeing real-life solutions, like the drone delivery of Covid-19 medical supplies, for challenges such as public health and climate change,” said Rachel Maclean, parliamentary under-secretary of state for transport.

Projects include:

  • Dock-to-Dock, which will delivery goods between Bristol and Cardiff using a hydrogen-powered electric aircraft.
  • Napkin, which is focused on zero-carbon short-haul flights.
  • Apian, which is creating a drone to deliver medical supplies such as Covid-19 swab tests between hospitals.
  • The Light Aircraft Company, which will integrate electric propulsion into existing aircraft.
  • Windracers Distributed Avionics, which will develop swarming technology to allow drones to fly in close formations to provide humanitarian aid or fight fires.
  • Droneprep, Consortiq and Windracers, which will all use drones to deliver critical PPE and Covid-19 testing kits to rural communities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

“As the UK leads the way in the aviation revolution, these bold proposals showcase the pioneering spirit of the UK’s aerospace and aviation industries in solving global issues and those facing us here in the UK,” said Nadhim Zahawi, business and industry minister.

“Today we have announced over £7m of funding for projects across the country which demonstrate how using the latest and most cutting-edge aviation technologies can step up our response to the coronavirus pandemic, help us build back better and cement our well-earned reputation for research and development excellence, while creating hundreds of new jobs.”

Gary Cutts, director, Future Flight Challenge, commented: “At this very challenging time for the international aviation industry, it is a great testament to the UK’s drive and ambition that we have had such a strong response to the first funded Future Flight competition. The breadth, quality and creativity of the bids has been exceptional and the economic and social benefits offered are very significant.”

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