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UKRI seeks proposals for Future Flight safety study

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is seeking proposals to develop a total system safety case for new forms of air transportation as part of its Future Flight Challenge.

Lilium air taxi London
UKRI is seeking a greater understanding of the aviation safety case of a future aviation system that could include eVTOL air taxis like the Lilium Jet. Lilium Image

UKRI has reserved up to £100,000 for the project, which aims to describe both current and future safety cases for an aviation system including drones, urban air mobility vehicles, and sub-regional all-electric aircraft — all operating at high volumes and with various degrees of autonomy.

“There is a critical need to collate the current understanding of the basis of aviation system safety, highlight the potential changes under a Future Flight vision, and identify key safety requirements and components of the new system,” states the UKRI’s invitation to quote.

“Without such a study, it is conceivable that all the different elements of the new aviation system could be developed and qualified in isolation without an understanding of whether the whole system itself is tenable.”

According to the invitation to quote, the agency is unaware of any similar work taking place on such a broad basis. “Research published such as Uber Elevate or Roland Berger’s Aircraft Electrical Propulsion focus on the challenges of technology rather than the whole system,” the document notes.

Instead, the UKRI is proposing a “broad-based but pragmatic approach” to understanding the multiple safety challenges associated with a novel aviation “system of systems.” These include issues related to aircraft certification, flight operations, airport operations, air traffic management, human factors, degrees of system redundancy, maintenance, and more.

The UKRI says it hopes to see the effort led by “a consortium of U.K. research bodies,” with input from other universities, the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, and private companies as appropriate. The closing date for proposals is May 29, with work expected to begin on July 3 and end by Dec. 16, 2020.

UKRI launched its three-phase Future Flight Challenge last year. The second phase of the competition opened on May 11 and is accepting proposals through July 1, with up to £30 million in funding available for the development of integrated aviation systems and technologies for electric and autonomous aircraft.

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