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New drone tests to 'transform city travel'

04 January 2018 08:44

The VTOL will be able to take people from Heathrow to Charing Cross in 12 minutes

The VTOL will be able to take people from Heathrow to Charing Cross in 12 minutes

A UK start-up is aiming to "transform city transportation from the air" with a drone that is expected to perform test flights with passengers as early as next year.

Called Y6S, Autonomous Flight's aircraft seats two people, has a maximum speed of 70mph and will fly at an altitude of 1,500 feet.

The concept vehicle is expected to be unveiled in March 2018 with manned test flights planned in September, making Autonomous Flight the first company in the UK to join the burgeoning global market of passenger drones, better known as electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, or VTOLs.

Much like drones, VTOLs can hover, take off and land vertically.

12-minute flights

According to the company's founder Martin Warner, the Y6S could take passengers from London Heathrow to Charing Cross in just 12 minutes.

As a project in its early stages, it is not yet know how the new transportation would sit within the travel insurance industry.

Mr Warner said: "The Y6S is going through a series of tests. By end of March we will have a full, living concept - 70% of the concept will be the prototype. We will be doing test flights using sandbags to adjust for human weight in August. At the end of the third quarter, we will most likely be doing our first passenger test flight."

The vehicle, which is aimed at private users, will be powered by a lithium-ion battery and can travel within an 80-mile range.

The Civil Aviation Authority, which oversees and regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the UK, has rules in place for flying drones but that does not extend to VTOLs.

The new gold rush

Mr Warner said: "We have just hired a UK lobbyist to participate in the conversations about regulations. As far as I understand, there has been some conversations but it is very early.

"There is an industrial policy on unmanned drones, particularly on the consumer side, but there is nothing yet concrete about the idea that we could have autonomous routes providing track ways for passenger vehicles other than helicopters."

Warner describes the VTOL sector as the "new gold rush in transportation and aviation".