Flying vehicles tipped to take off in the UK

Out-Law News | 29 Oct 2021 | 9:13 am | 2 min. read

Proposals for a more open and flexible approach to the regulation of innovative new forms of transport in the UK means it is possible to imagine flying vehicles being tested, and ultimately deployed, in the country in the years ahead, an expert in the future of mobility has said.

Ben Gardner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, was commenting after a new hoverbike went on sale in Japan.

The XTURISMO Limited Edition is manufactured by A.L.I. Technologies based in Tokyo. The company demonstrated the vehicle in flight at the Fuji speedway racing course earlier this week. According to Reuters, the hoverbike flew a few metres off the ground at the unveiling.

"Until now the choice has been to move on the ground or at scale in the sky. We hope to offer a new method of movement," said A.L.I. Technologies chief executive Daisuke Katano.

The hoverbike is powered by an internal combustion engine and electricity. A.L.I Technologies has said it can fly for up to 40 minutes at any one time. The BBC reported that the company is hoping to manufacture 200 of the hoverbikes by the middle of 2022. The vehicles are on sale for $680,000.

Gardner Ben

Ben Gardner

Senior Associate

There is a blueprint for new forms of transport to move out of the realms of science fiction and into the real world

In the UK, a  number of authorities have been engaged in initiatives in recent years aimed at reconfiguring the regulatory environment to facilitate the safe use of innovative new forms of mobility, including autonomous vehicles.

The Law Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission are in the process of carrying out a detailed review of what laws need to change to support autonomous vehicles on UK roads. A final report and recommendations from the bodies is expected to be published before the end of the year.

In the spring this year, the Department for Transport (DfT) opened a separate consultation on changes to the Highway Code, proposing to add a new section setting out expectations for users of automated vehicles. At the time the government said that ‘self-driving’ vehicles fitted with Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) could be permitted on UK roads before the end of 2021. The government previously developed a code of practice to guide the testing of autonomous vehicles in the UK.

Last month, the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) opened a consultation on a new regulatory sandbox that has been proposed to allow innovative new forms of “surface transport” to be trialled in a controlled and monitored environment. The consultation runs until 22 November. The proposed sandbox would complement an existing sandbox operated by the Civil Aviation Authority which CCAV said has already enabled “real-world trials of innovative new aviation solutions”.

Gardner said the various initiatives show the UK’s willingness to embrace the future of mobility and possible new forms of transport, such as A.L.I Technologies’ hoverbike.

“There is scope for us to see the vehicle being deployed in the UK in the future but, in the meantime, the responsible authorities will need to carefully consider how they can sufficiently keep people safe whilst not stifling innovation,” Gardner said.

“However, the current trialling of emerging technologies such as driverless cars, autonomous robots and drones shows there is a blueprint for new forms of transport to move out of the realms of science fiction and into the real world,” he said.

Future of mobility
The way we move is changing radically – climate change, superfast telecoms networks, electrification, AI and digital payments are rewriting the transport rulebook. Autonomous and shared vehicles and mobility as a service are fast becoming a reality.
Future of mobility