Our commitment to the general aviation sector also extends to supporting innovation. Perhaps the most exciting development in general aviation is the emergence of electric and autonomous flight. Over the next 20 years, electric flight is likely to become mainstream, with potential applications in air mobility, commercial and private general aviation.
Drones are already entering commercial fleets, in some cases replacing the work of light aircraft and helicopters used by emergency services, agriculture, and energy and engineering sectors. Commercially viable electric light-aircraft are also taking off, such as the two-seat all-electric trainer Pipistrel Alpha Electro, which became the first electric aircraft certified as airworthy by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2018. A host of start-ups and traditional aerospace companies are developing and testing electric planes of varying designs and sizes.
Perhaps the most tangible area of development is with small urban electric air taxis, or Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft. German air mobility manufacturer Volocopter, for example, recently launched the VoloConnect, a four-seater electric flying taxi capable of inter-city flights. The company already produces the two-passenger VoloCity, which is currently in the certification process with European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The VoloCity has been trialled in Dubai and Singapore, and the company hopes to run air taxi services in US and Asian cities in coming years.
Electric powered flight is also making headway in aerosports. The planned launch of Air Race E in 2022 will see the first ever all-electric airplanes compete around an oval circuit, reaching speeds of 400 km/h. Electric microlight and ultralight prototypes have also been developed, and are likely to become more relevant to the aerosports space in the future as fossil fuels are eventually phased out.