UK Civil Aviation Authority ponders vertiports for flying taxis

eVTOL to use existing aerodrome infrastructure

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is looking at design proposals for vertiports at existing aerodromes as the UK begins deliberation over the potential arrival of air taxis.

While electrically powered vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft – or air taxis, if you will – continue to teeter on the edge of science fiction and reality, the CAA has launched a consultation on how these vehicles might work locally.

The UK has hundreds of aerodromes dotted around the country, ideal for vertiports where eVTOL aircraft can ply their trade. According to the CAA, a vertiport is a site "used for the arrival, departure, and surface movement of VTOL aircraft." The authority reckons that the electrically powered flying machines "have the potential to provide more efficient and sustainable ways to travel between cities and airports."

Hmm. There are plenty of ways to connect cities and communities that do not require filling the skies with drones-on-steroids. Trains spring effortlessly to mind but lack the "cool" factor of a flying taxi.

Using the existing UK aerodrome infrastructure is the part that does make sense. Existing aerodromes are already equipped to handle aviation activities, and using them will give VTOL aircraft somewhere to operate while the industry and regulators familiarize themselves with how this brave new world could actually work.

The CAA will look at the additional safety requirements for existing aerodromes, including dealing with obstacles and adding visual aids, rescue and firefighting services, and the design of operating areas.

Sophie O'Sullivan, Head of Future Safety and Innovation, noted that the consultation was a step toward making VTOL travel a part of everyday life and said: "UK aerodromes are vital in unlocking the future of aviation operations. 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."

Electric VTOL vehicles have long enjoyed the status of being almost here. In 2022, American Airlines committed to making pre-delivery payments for 50 Vertical Aerospace VX4 eVTOL aircraft. In a letter to shareholders [PDF] at the end of last year, Vertical Aerospace said it was targeting Type Certification in late 2026 and was expecting its next Permit to Fly – required for testing – from the CAA in 2024.

The UK is not alone in pondering vertiport infrastructure. In 2023, Skyports showed off a roadmap for delivering a vertiport network in Dubai for launch in 2026. ®

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