Urban air mobility is set to take helicopter operations “to the next level,” according to Vertical Aerospace’s Head of Powertrain, Lawrence Blakeley.

Blakeley said that although the aircraft were new, the use case for UAM was more a case of improving on existing transportation methods, rather than reinventing the wheel. He said: “Urban mobility, in our case, is looking at transforming what is already there so you could take helicopter operations, and taking it to the next level. Helicopter operations are limited by their safety to in some flying zones and particularly limited by noise. We’re able to tackle these challenges through introduction of an electrical propulsion system, it’s quieter, it’s safer through redundancy as you can see.”

He added that not only would the aircraft be sustainable, they would also be cheaper to run and would help meet the government’s aims of being carbon neutral by 2050. “We’re starting from the ground up and it’s a purely electrical powertrain, so we have zero emissions. In a city application, all we will be doing is removing emissions from the environment. It’s battery-powered, we’ll be charging as you do an EV car and so we’re going to build on that network that’s already being deployed.”

Aircraft will use shuttle run as initial use case

Blakeley said demand for the new urban transportation was already there, adding that Vertical was looking to certify the vehicle in 2024, with entry into service in 2025. “We’re targeting a maximum range for about 100 miles, but we’re really seeing the opportunity for the business case, particularly in the first deployment, to be in the 20-30 mile range,” he explained.

“Here you could be going from downtown London to Heathrow or to the south coast or maybe even up to Cambridge, so that kind of range. It’s going to be a quick turnover and so the aircraft will be doing shuttle runs. People talk about it being air taxi and it feels like it’s a bit more than that, but if you have that concept in your mind, it really is that kind of short hop.”

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