Cranfield Univ, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin display concept autonomous hybrid-EV with flight capability

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 16 Jul 2018

Cranfield University and its partners are presenting today a new concept in personal air mobility for fast, efficient and congestion-free urban and inter-city air travel, christened the ‘Volante Vision Concept’.

The concept is developed in partnership with Aston Martin, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions and Rolls-Royce, which is a near-future study that previews a luxurious flying autonomous hybrid-electric vehicle with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities.

It takes full advantage of expertise at Cranfield’s global research airport, located in Cambridge – Millton Keynes – Oxford arc, coupled with Aston Martin’s signature design and is powered by Rolls-Royce hybrid-electric systems. The Cranfield University is leading the work on the autonomous flight controls, connectivity and security of the aircraft. The digital aviation research wing at the University will also support how the aircraft fits into the wider transportation ecosystem.

Professor Iain Gray, director of Aerospace, Cranfield University, said: “We’re delighted to be part of this exciting and forward-thinking project that showcases British innovation and the way that Cranfield works with and supports business. The Volante Vision Concept exemplifies Cranfield’s unique capabilities in digital aviation, autonomous systems and the electrification of aerospace, and is an excellent example of how the University combines cutting-edge research, academic rigour and real-world application.”

Dr Andy Palmer, president and CEO, Aston Martin said: “With the population in urban areas continuing to grow, congestion in towns and cities will become increasingly demanding. We need to look at alternative solutions to reduce congestion, cut pollution and improve mobility. Air travel will be a crucial part in the future of transportation. The Volante Vision Concept is the ultimate luxury mobility solution.”

“Humans have always spent, on average, one hour commuting to and from work.  The distance we live from our workplace has been determined by the methods of transportation available. The Volante Vision Concept will enable us to travel further with our hourly commute, meaning we are able to live further away from where we work. Cities will grow, and towns that are today too far away from cities to be commutable will become suburban,” added Dr Palmer.

“With Aston Martin and our ‘dream team’ of British innovation across industry and academia, we are positioned to change the future of transportation, giving our customers a new dimension of freedom,” concluded Dr Palmer.

Paul Hutton, CEO, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) said: “The introduction of autonomous and electric propulsion technologies into new aircraft designs is both inevitable and challenging, and as the UK’s leading aircraft design and production SME we are excited to be playing this key role in the Volante Vision Concept and so to be at the vanguard of this revolution in aerospace.”

Rob Watson, director, Rolls-Royce Electrical, said: “We are delighted to be involved in the Volante Vision Concept, which showcases the best of British design and engineering. Rolls-Royce has already delivered hybrid-electric systems for other applications including ships and trains, and we’re very excited about the potential of the technology in aerospace. This is a great opportunity to collaborate on a pioneering project which will use high performance hybrid-electric propulsion technologies for personal air mobility concepts that could transform the future of transportation.”

According to the Cranfield University the next phase of the project will focus on engineering and technical development, with the aim of working towards a full-size flying demonstrator prototype. It states that the skills offered by each partner ensures that the Volante Vision Concept promises to offer an exciting alternative transportation solution for customers across the globe. 

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