Rolls-Royce lays claim to world’s fastest all-electric aircraft

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With the pressure on aircraft and engine manufacturers to develop the electric aircraft of the future, Rolls-Royce has inched that bit closer to a podium finish with its ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft, which it believes is the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, having clocked up a maximum speed of 623 kh/h (387.4 (mph).

The aircraft has submitted data to the Fédération Aéronautique International (FAI) – the World Air Sports Federation, which controls and certifies world aeronautical and astronautical records – for three world records.

On 16 November, 2021, the aircraft reached a top spped of 555.9km/h (345.4mph) over 3km, smashing the existing record by 213.04km/h (132 mph). Further runs at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down experimental aircraft testing site, the aircraft achieved 532.1km/h (330mph) over 15km – 292.8km/h (182mph) faster than the previous record – and broke the fastest time to climb to 3,000m by 60 seconds with a time of 202 seconds.

“Staking the claim for the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL) team and Rolls-Royce,” said Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce.”The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) market. Following the world’s focus on the need for action at COP26, this is another milestone that will help make ‘jet zero’ a reality and supports our amibtions to deliver the technology breakthroughs society needs to decarbonise transport across air, land and sea.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng added that the UK Government is “proud to back projects like this to leverage the private investment necessary to unlock cleaner, greener aircraft.”

Propelled on its record breaking runs by a 400kW electric powertrain, the aircraft offers the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace. The world record runs also provided important data for future electric power and propulsion systems for all-electric urban air mobility and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft. The characteristics that ‘air taxis’ require from batteries, for instance, are very similar to what was developed for the ‘Spirit of Innovation.’


Ferrovial plans for UK network of 25 vertiports

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Spanish-based infrastructure group Ferrovial, which is also an AGS airports shareholder, plans to launch a network of more than 25 vertiports across the UK in partnership with eVTOL aircraft developer Vertical Aerospace.

The initiative is a further step in Ferrovial’s bid to lead the mobility of the future through the development of infrastructure for safe, high-speed, zero carbon aviation and follows a recent agreement to develop a network of more than 10 vertiports in Florida, US.

Essential infrastructure for landing, recharging and taking off eVTOL aircraft, the vertiports will be integrated into communities and adapted to the surrounding environment, reducing noise impact and improving energy efficiency through innovative design.

Ferrovial has partnered with architecture firm Grimshaw and global engineering management and development consultancy Mott MacDonald to develop the design and engineering components of the vertiport infrastructure.

“The partnership between vertiports and eVTOLS will provide high speed, affordable, emissions-free travel to millions of people,” said Kevin Cox, CEO of Ferrovial Vertiports. “This network will boost local economies with a new model of regional connectivity.”

Ferrovial has more than 20 years’ experience of investing, developing and operating 33 airports around the world, including in the US, Australia and Chile. It currently has four airports in the UK. With the largest shareholder stake in Heathrow Airport, it is the airport’s core shareholder and industrial partner. It also partly owns Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports.


SEA Milan Airports explores deployment of vertiports across Italy

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SEA Milan, which manages Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate airports in Italy, has signed a partnership with vertiport owner, Skyports, to investigate the development and operation of a network of vertiports across Italy. The collaboration will enable SEA Group to explore the deployment of vehicle-agnostic, scalable and cost-effective vertiports across the city and the surrounding region. Use cases for advanced air mobility have already been identified, which would see commercial operations being established in time for the Milano Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics.

“I’m really excited about this partnership,” said Duncan Walker, CEO and Founder of Skyports. “Milan is a central business hub for Italy’s northern region, which makes it an attractive market for advanced air mobility applications. Our plans are to have a number of operational vertiports across Italy by the mid-2020s in time for the 2026 Winter Olympics. SEA Milano is the ideal partner for delivering on our strategy in Italy.”

Commenting on how SEA is committed to the development of advanced air mobility (AAM) as a core component of its sustainability strategy, Armando Brunini, CEO of SEA Milan Airports added: “Collaborating with Skyports, the global market leader in designing, building and operating vertiports will accelerate SEA’s capability to deploy a network of vertiports, starting from greater Milan. Thus we are supporting the start-up and development of this promising and sustainable mode of air mobility, as set out in the framework guidelines of the national strategic roadmap for AAM developed by ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority.”

Skyports proposes vertiport to enable Advanced Air Mobility in London

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Skyports has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Brent Cross South Limited Partnership, a joint venture between Argent Related and Barnet Council in London, UK to develop a passenger air taxi vertiport at Brent Cross Town.

The £7 billion 180-acre development in north-west London, which is being regenerated as a mixed-use park town for the capital, is conveniently located to access central London hence it being selected as a prospective location for the vertiport.

While an interim vertiport could be built at Brent Cross Town as early as 2024, a permanent location would be constructed during the development phases to create the opportunity for electric passenger air taxi services between this and other Skyports vertiports in and around London and the rest of the UK.

“This exciting project is a sign of huge progress within the industry,” said Duncan Walker, CEO of Skyports. “The very fact that vertiports are being planned for construction in mixed-use neighbourhoods such as Brent Cross Town demonstrates the direction in which the industry is moving and the increasing confidence in its success. Our in-house team of airport planners, regulatory experts, airspace experts, software and hardware developers remains completely focused on vertiports which are safe, practical and in locations which will make a positive impact on daily life,” he continued.

Welcoming the opportunity to work with Skyports as specialists in the planning and construction of vertiport infrastructure, Andre Gibbs, Partner at Argent Related added that “the vertiport would strengthen transport connections into and out of central London and would complement the new train station, the existing tube links, comprehensive road connectivity and cycleways.”

Skyports will work with Brent Cross Town to share market insights and developments in the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) industry, undertake due diligence on the site and engage with external regulatory bodies such as the UK Civil Aviation Authority and local government to obtain relevant permissions. The Brent Cross Town team alongside Barnet Council meanwhile will provide the local knowledge to allow plans to progress, as well as lead introductions with local stakeholders and contractors, and facilitate access to enable Skyports to undertake any preliminary investigative works.

Skyports and Kencoa Aerospace join forces to implement cargo drone deliveries in South Korea

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As a pioneer in cargo drone deliveries and advanced air mobility (AAM) infrastructure, Skyports has teamed up with Kencoa Aerospace, a global aerospace solution supplier and manufacturer, to announce a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to deploy cargo drone deliveries to and on Jeju Island in South Korea.

South Korea’s largest island is located approximately 60 miles south of the mainland in the Korea Strait and the aim of the Skyports and Kencoa’s project is to significantly enhance logistics capabilities on Jeju Island. Deliveries will include critical supplies, including medical provisions, across the island.

Skyports involvement in the project will include undertaking a proof-of-concept to demonstrate the benefits and capabilities of beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations on Jeju Island. In addition, the company will also conduct a feasibility assessment of setting up a cargo drone vertiport and accumulate critical eVTOL operations data ahead of the commencement of commercial operations.

“South Korea is ripe with opportunity in the advanced air mobility space,” said Duncan Walker, CEO of Skyports. “Jeju Island’s specific volcanic and island geography provides a unique backdrop on which to demonstrate the benefits of drone logistics. With our BVLOS cargo drone operations, delivery services on the island will be up to six times faster, with carbon emission reduced by up to 90%. Drone deliveries have the potential to totally transform services for residents and healthcare providers, and we’re excited to be amongst the first movers in South Korea – and globally.”

Skyports’ drone delivery services have already seen successs in the UK and other locations. Projects include the UK’s first COVID-19 test drone delivery service in Scotland with the NHS and the operation of an inter-island medical drone delivery service between the Isles of Scilly for Royal Mail. It was also the company to build a full-scale passenger air taxi vertiport – the take-off and landing infrastructure for eVTOL aircraft, which was launched as part of a trial that took place in Singapore in 2019.

Kenny Lee, CEO of Kencoa Aerospace, also voiced his enthusiasm for the collaboration, saying: “Through this partnership we will commence drone deliveries in Jeju Province before establishing AAM infrastructure and expanding into the air taxi industry. Jeju’s excellent tourist resources will promote the commercialisation of our AAM services. The strength of this partnership will enable the fastest commercial launch in Korea.”

Consortium provides launch pad for Ireland’s advanced air mobility market

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Skyports has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Shannon Group, Future Mobility Campus Ireland and Avtrain  to establish Ireland’s first passenger and cargo vertiport.

Alongside Skyports, Future Mobility Campus Ireland (FCMI), Ireland’s first testbed for future mobility located next to Shannon Airport; Avtrain, Europe’s leading drone training and certification body; and Shannon Group’s International Aviation Services Centre, which supports and promotes one of Ireland’s largest aviation clusters located at Shannon, are all collaborating in the venture.

By joining forces the consortium will work towards launching an operational vertiport at Shannon’s FMCI campus in 2022, encouraging investment in Irelands’ Advanced Aerial Mobility (AAM) industry. The long-term goal is the establishment of Ireland’s first air taxi service and routine beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations.

The consortium has already begun working towards launching BVLOS proof-of-concept operations as early as September 2021. These flights will demonstrate the viability of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and highlight the benefits that research and investment in AAM will bring to urban and rural areas.

“This partnership provides a launch pad for Ireland’s AAM market,” said Duncan Walker, CEO Skyports. “To be contributing at this early stage demonstrates the criticality of vertiport infrastructure to the success of the industry. Participating alongside a group of such high calibre organisations puts us in a strong position to kick-start the project, providing the perfect mix of expertise to make our AAM plans a reality.”

Meanwhile, Russell Vickers, CEO at Future Mobility Campus Ireland added, “Ireland and this region in particular has a huge potential to shape future research and development of AAM. Development of a vertiport in conjunction with a UAV testing area provides a natural extension to the capabilities of the Future Mobility Campus. The ecosystem continues to grow thanks to the vision and belief of our partners.”