UK could see flying taxis within two years under government plans

Report outlines role drones will play in fighting crime, supporting 999 services and making deliveries by 2030

A two-seater 'hover taxi' flying in Dubai. AFP
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Piloted flying taxis could take to the skies in the UK in two years under new government plans that also include the introduction of regular drone deliveries by 2027.

By 2033 the taxis could fly without pilots on board, says the Future of Flight Action Plan by the Department of Transport (DoT).

It also outlines how drones will be used to fight crime and deliver critical medical care by the end of the decade.

The plans would mean the adoption of technology “once confined to the realm of sci-fi”, according to the DoT, with drone technology boosting the country’s economy by £45 billion [$57bn] by 2030.

“Cutting-edge battery technology will revolutionise transport as we know it – this plan will make sure we have the infrastructure and regulation in place to make it a reality," aviation and technology minister Anthony Browne said.

“From flying taxis to emergency service drones, we’re making sure the UK is at the forefront of this dramatic shift in transportation, improving people’s lives and boosting the economy.”

The proposals would also allow drones to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) so the sector can grow without limiting the skies for other aircraft.

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They also aim to reinvigorate smaller aerodromes by setting out how they can operate as vertiports for electric aircraft that take off vertically (known as electric vertical take-off and landing or eVTOL aircraft).

The plans develop standards to improve security for drones to boost public safety and look at ways of involving communities and local authorities so they can benefit from the potential economic and social benefits.

The action plan was announced as Mr Browne was set to visit Vertical Aerospace in Bristol – one of the UK companies making flying taxis which are currently undergoing the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) authorisation process.

"With government and business working together, we can unleash the huge economic, environmental and social benefits of zero emissions flight globally," Stephen Fitzpatrick, founder and chief executive of Vertical Aerospace, said.

Dubai hospital trials delivering medication to patients' homes by drone – video

Dubai hospital trials delivering medication to patients' homes by drone

Dubai hospital trials delivering medication to patients' homes by drone

Sophie O’Sullivan, CAA head of future safety and innovation, said: “Aviation stands on the cusp of its next, potentially biggest, revolution since the invention of the jet engine.

“Drones, eVTOL, and other different vehicles have the potential to change transportation options forever.

“Our role in this bright future of aviation will be enabling technological advances and providing regulatory support, while ensuring that all forms of new aviation technology enjoy the same high safety standards as traditional aviation.”

The plans aim to build on current uses of drone technology, such as the use by West Midlands Police to tackle violent crime and antisocial behaviour.

In July 2023, a drone team successfully identified two offenders and another suspect who it would have taken officers on the ground hours to track down.

In the NHS, the drone service provider Skyfarer has partnered with University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and Medical Logistics UK to test drones to deliver surgical implants and pathology samples between sites, cutting delivery times by up to 70 per cent.

Updated: March 18, 2024, 12:07 AM