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Government invests £273m in flying taxis, drones and hydrogen planes

Government aerospace sector flying taxis
Image credit: Shutterstock / Goinyk Production

The government has unveiled a £273m funding package for the UK’s aerospace sector to invest in technology such as solar-powered aircraft, flying taxis and drones carrying medical treatments.

The funding, announced by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng at the Farnborough International Airshow today, is aimed at boosting jobs and innovation in the sector.

Kwarteng said: “Through funding for the latest in green technology, such as solar and hydrogen-powered aircraft, and setting out our vision for the fast-growing market for commercial drones, we are once again placing the aerospace sector directly at the centre of our plans to deliver jobs and grow the economy.”

Out of the funding, £155m will be spent on green aerospace innovation, including hydrogen and battery technology.

Through the Future Flight Challenge, £105.5m of the investment will go towards supporting projects that are developing air transport systems and new vehicle technology.

According to the government, the projects could generate up to 8,800 jobs.

Drone superhighway

The plan will also see the UK build a 164-mile automated drone superhighway within the next two years, connecting towns and cities such as Cambridge and Rugby.

Britain’s skies have become increasingly busy, with the NHS beginning trials to deliver chemotherapy drugs by drone in an Isle of Wight trial. Meanwhile, Skyports is trialling the aerial delivery of school meals and the Royal Mail plans to launch 50 new postal drone routes in the next three years.

A further £12m is being made available through the Regulators’ Pioneer Fund to support initiatives that will help “unlock industries of the future through regulation”.

Robert Courts, transport minister, said: “The steps we have set out today will ensure our aviation sector remains world-leading and fit for the future, helping to deliver on our ambitious climate change goals and boost high-skilled job opportunities.”

Flying taxis have long been the stuff of science fiction. However, recent advances in electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) technology has resulted in a handful of startups vying to bring intra-city air transport to market.

These startups are in regular dialogue with regulators, with California-based flying taxi firm Joby Aviation Inc applying for certification to bring its eVTOLs to the UK yesterday.

In December last year, British flying taxi startup Autonomous Flight launched a $100m Series C round.