Britain’s aviation regulator is investigating “vertiport” designs as part of plans to bring flying taxis to the UK.
The new consultation will lay the foundations for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Wednesday.
To fly them between land and sky, the CAA wants to install vertical airports — aka vertiports — at existing aerodromes.
By adapting existing infrastructure, the CAA plans to abridge the path to lift-off. The regulator notes that there are already hundreds of airfields spread across the UK. Equipping them with vertiports could create a domestic transport network for VTOLs.
It’s an appealing proposition for several reasons. One involves the flexibility of VTOLs. As these aircraft can take off, hover, and land vertically, they don’t require runways to operate.
Another attraction is their manoeuvrability. They’re capable of navigating limited spaces, which makes them potentially suitable for urban transport. With electric versions (eVTOLs) gaining traction, they could also reduce carbon emissions.
Still, not everyone is a fan. Critics argue that they’re impractical and that public funding would be better spent on existing public transport. There are also fears that VTOLs will only be available to the ludicrously wealthy.
For the CAA, however, they’re a compelling option for the future. By adapting existing aerodromes, the regulator is hoping that this future won’t be far away.
“UK aerodromes are vital in unlocking the future of aviation operations,” Sophie-Louise O’Sullivan, Head of Future Safety and Innovation at the CAA, said in a statement.
“By leveraging existing regulation, we’re enabling future operators and aerodromes to develop their understanding and operational expertise, at the same time as growing our collective knowledge of the technology and operational scenarios to support this infrastructure.”
The consultation closes on March 15. Responses can be made via the CAA’s dedicated webpage.