British startup carries out flying taxi test flight

Written by Hannah McGrath

A British startup has joined the race to launch the world’s first flying taxi service after it released footage of a test flight of its electric aircraft.

Vertical Aerospace, a Bristol-based company founded in 2016 by Stephen Fitzpatrick, chief executive of Ovo Energy, carried out a successful test of an unmanned electrical vertical-take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL) in June.

The company revealed footage of the launch of the eVTOL drone aircraft and said the carbon fibre model had been granted flight permission by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Vertical Aerospace hopes that flight permissions for the prototype model can be used as a platform to introduce an emission-free, pilot-driven alternative to short haul flights.

Fitzpatrick said the company is planning to submit its next model for certification by European air safety regulators by 2022, with a view to launching the UK’s first commercial air taxi service within four years. The carbon fibre vehicle is capable of travelling at speeds of up to 200 mph.

Details released this weekend show that Vertical Aerospace has developed a 750kg battery-powered prototype of the aircraft with four rotors, which is capable of carrying between two and four passengers with a range of 93 miles, which the company said makes it suitable for intercity travel.

It is hoped that a more powerful model could cover distance of 500 miles, making it a possible alternative for cross channel return journeys from London to Paris.

Photos of the June test flight show the aircraft hovering over Cotswold airport in Gloucestershire before a smooth landing.

Fitzpatrick said that the air taxi would revolutionise the way people fly short haul.

“Passengers will be taking off from locations very close to their homes or businesses and landing very close to the point of their destination rather than having to travel to an airport 40 to 50 miles outside the city,” he explained.

He added that his team had learned a lot from Formula 1 in terms of technology and the pace of development of concept vehicles.

“The lightweight materials, aerodynamics and electrical systems developed through F1 are highly applicable to aircraft, much more so than to road transport. By putting those technologies in the hands of experienced aerospace engineers, we can build cutting edge aircraft for the 21st Century.”

Vertical Aerospace’s launch follows an announcement from Rolls Royce in July that it is planning to develop an electric aircraft with rotating wings. Uber and Google have also unveiled concepts for flying vehicles.

A video of the Vertical Aerospace test flight can be viewed here.