UK CAA anticipates eVTOL services within five years, sets up international consortium

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has established an international consortium of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) industry leaders and aviation experts. The group, which was announced at the HeliTech Expo today (5 October 2021) in London, will consider the safety challenges that need to be solved to allow eVTOL aircraft and drone taxis to come to market, helping the UK’s aviation sector to continue to be at the forefront of international technology.

The eVTOL Safety Leadership Group (eVSLG) consortium contains potential operators, existing rotorcraft experts and aviation companies, including the Bristow Helicopters and Virgin Atlantic, as well as eVTOL manufacturers such as Joby and Vertical Aerospace.

While eVTOL aircraft are not yet in operation, these vehicles have the potential to launch commercially in the UK within the next five years. In order to begin operations and receive regulatory approval, any aircraft needs to stand up to the strictest standards of aviation safety.

The eVSLG consortium is an open space for industry and is outside of usual Civil Aviation Authority governance and assurance processes. As the UK’s aviation and aerospace safety regulator, the CAA has facilitated the eVSLG to demonstrate its commitment to continue the sector’s high aviation standards into innovative and future aviation sector operations. It expects that the consortium will empower the eVTOL market to successfully take off and retain the UK’s highest levels of aviation safety.

The group is Co-Chaired by the Head of the UK CAA’s Rapid Capabilities Office, Rick Newson, and Matt Rhodes from Bristow Helicopters who is also co-Chair of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Leadership Group.

Commenting on the launch, Rick Newson, said: “The formation of the eVSLG consortium is a significant milestone toward a future of eVTOL aircraft and drone taxis becoming a reality in UK airspace. With commercial operations potentially starting in the next five years, it is vital that a strong safety culture is built into the heart of eVTOL operations.

“The UK is a global leader for aviation innovation, and this group will provide a space for organisations to collaborate and create of world-first technologies, tried and tested in a safe environment.”

Matt Rhodes said: “eVTOL aircraft represent a significant and revolutionary step change in this industry necessitating that safety processes continue to evolve in line with this fast moving and dynamic technology. We are committed to a collaborative approach to the sharing of safety critical data and best practices to assure our success.”

Organisations currently represented within the eVTOL Safety Leadership Group:

UK Civil Aviation Authority – Co-Chair
Bristow Helicopters – Co-Chair
Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB)
British Helicopter Assocation
General Aviation Safety Council (GASCo)
Vertical Aerospace
Virgin Atlantic

The CAA expects membership for the group to continue to grow over coming weeks.

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