LONDON - Britain’s first electric flying taxis are set to take to the air in test flights in 2026 according to the government’s new plan for aviation.

The Future of Flight Action Plan published on Monday paves the way for flying taxis to go into widespread use in 2030.

While the initial tests will use pilots, the electric aircraft will eventually be pilotless.

The plan is intended to speed up the adoption of aviation technology “once confined to the realm of sci-fi”, according to the Department for Transport.

Small airfields and urban landing pads will also see a surge in activity from drones and electric air taxi-style aircraft.

So-called “vertiports” will be set up for electric aircraft that take off vertically, similarly to the Harrier jump-jet.

Other countries including China and the US have already tested similar all-electric aircraft designed for passenger flights but so far none have progressed beyond the prototype stage.

The government’s proposals also include increasing use of drones by the police and to make critical medical deliveries by the end of the decade.

Under the proposals, the current requirement that a user must be able to see a drone at all times while it is in the air would be dropped. It is hoped that the move to flying drones Beyond Visual Line of Sight will allow the aviation new technology sector to grow.

Aviation and technology minister Anthony Browne said: “Cutting-edge battery technology will revolutionise transport as we know it.

“This plan will make sure we have the infrastructure and regulation in place to make it a reality.”

“From flying taxis to emergency service drones, we’re making sure the UK is at the forefront of this dramatic shift in transportation, improving people’s lives and boosting the economy.”

On Monday, Mr Browne will visit the Bristol headquarters of Vertical Aerospace, a flying taxi company backed by the founder of Ovo Energy, Stephen Fitzpatrick.

The firm has been trialling a five-seater piloted air-taxi designed to fly at speeds of up to 200mph. Last year a prototype crashed while under test at Kemble airport in the Cotswolds.

Public trials
A number of public trials have already taken place under special conditions for drone deliveries but the government wants to press ahead with making routine use of the new technologies.

Mr Fitzpatrick, founder and chief executive of Vertical Aerospace, said: “With government and business working together, we can unleash the huge economic, environmental and social benefits of zero emissions flight globally.”

Sophie O’Sullivan, the Civil Aviation Authority’s head of future safety and innovation, said: “Aviation stands on the cusp of its next, potentially biggest, revolution since the invention of the jet engine.

“Drones, [electric vertical takeoff and landing craft] and other different vehicles have the potential to change transportation options forever.

“Our role in this bright future of aviation will be enabling technological advances and providing regulatory support, while ensuring that all forms of new aviation technology enjoy the same high safety standards as traditional aviation.”

Current uses of drone technology include widespread use by police forces to tackle violent crime and anti-social behaviour.

In July 2023, a West Midlands Police drone team identified two offenders and another suspect at a speed and distance that would have taken ground officers hours to track down, the force said.

In the NHS, drone service provider Skyfarer has partnered with University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and Medical Logistics UK to test drones to deliver surgical implants and pathology samples between sites, cutting delivery times by up to 70 per cent.

Private pilots’ associations have raised concerns about the drone roll-out, saying future craft must have safety features built in so they can “see and avoid” other aeroplanes.

Current drone trials see drones operating in areas of the sky that are closed off to all other aircraft for safety reasons, reducing areas available for light aeroplanes and helicopters to fly in.