Business chiefs and local authority leaders from across the Cambridge – Milton Keynes - Oxford growth corridor came together at Cranfield University this week to discover a new concept that promises to offer fast, efficient and congestion-free urban and inter-city air travel.

The Volante Vision Concept previews a luxurious flying autonomous hybrid-electric vehicle with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities.

First unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in July, the Volante has been developed by experts from Cranfield’s global research airport together with Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce.

This week, business chiefs and local authority leaders from the surrounding areas were invited to Cranfield’s £35 million Aerospace Integration Research Centre (AIRC) to find out more about the project and were given the chance to get up close to a scale-model of the Volante.

Professor Iain Gray, Cranfield’s Director of Aerospace, said: “We are at the start of a technology revolution in aerospace with increased levels of electrification, autonomy and new materials. This opens up new opportunities for the future, such as Volante. We are proud to be part of this programme. It reinforces that Cranfield, with its global research airport, is at the heart of this technology revolution.”

Aston Martin President and CEO Dr Andy Palmer 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.

The next phase of the Volante project will focus on engineering and technical development, with the aim of working towards a full-size flying demonstrator prototype.

Cranfield is leading work on the autonomous flight controls, connectivity and security of the aircraft, while digital aviation research at the university will also support how the aircraft will fit into the wider transportation ecosystem.


The Volante Vision Concept, an flying autonomous hybrid-electric vehicle.
The Volante Vision Concept vehicle

About Cranfield University

Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

Cranfield Aerospace

Cranfield is the number one university in Europe for aerospace. We are the only university in Europe to own and run an airport and to have airline status. We have been at the forefront of aerospace technology for 70 years.

As the UK's most business-engaged University, we have long-term relationships and close commercial partnerships with many companies in the sector including Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

Our education, research and consultancy is enhanced by our world-class facilities including the National Flying Laboratory Centre – a unique national asset which provides a hands-on, flying experience, along with flight deck simulators and industrial-scale gas turbine engine test facilities used for performance and diagnostic studies. The Aerospace Integration Research Centre, a £35 million innovative centre built in partnership with Airbus and Rolls-Royce, fosters collaboration between industry and academia. A new £65 million Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre will also be built at Cranfield to spearhead the UK’s research into digital aviation technology.

Notable Cranfield alumni include Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce plc and Ralph Hooper, who attended the College of Aeronautics at Cranfield in 1946 and went on to become one of the UK’s most important post-war aircraft designers, creating the Hawker Harrier jump jet.