Flying high: Vertical Flight Expo & Conference takes flight with 2019 launch

Flying high: Vertical Flight Expo & Conference takes flight with 2019 launch

Vertical Flight Expo & Conference, formerly known as Helitech International, lands in Farnborough from 5-7 November, in partnership with the British Helicopter Association (BHA). The event returns in a new guise to offer an unrivalled opportunity for international operators to source technology for their missions in oil and gas, HEMS, SAR and agriculture amongst other. As Europe’s largest vertical flight exhibition, the event relaunches this year with a brand-new identity and location. It follows an exceptionally successful 2018 show, which saw a 40% increase of attendees and three times more operators.


Thousands of industry professionals are set to attend the three-day event to find the latest products, services and technology, from safety equipment to avionics, simulators, flight data and communications. Brands from across the world will be present, with the likes of Aviall, A Boeing Company, Heli-one, Pratt & Whitney JSSI, Universal Avionics, Elbit Systems, and H+S Aviation confirmed to exhibit. A number of new exhibitors will also be making their debut at the 2019 show, including the likes of ATL, Starspeed, Northwall srl and Blue Sky Network.


Alongside the innovation demonstrated on the show floor, the Vertical Flight Expo will also welcome the industry’s foremost thought leaders in a refreshed and robust conference programme. Keynote speakers from across the industry will provide insights on the latest market trends, UAV-Helicopter operations, firefighting and SAR missions, regulation updates and more. In addition, this years’ new location at the well-connected Farnborough International enables exhibitors the chance to offer attendees test flights and live demonstrations.


Reflecting the event’s reputation as the best place to source vertical flight innovation in Europe, this year will also see the launch of a brand-new feature: The Innovation Launchpad.  In partnership with Earlymarket, who have a history of involvement in incubating aviation start-ups, the initiative provides a specialist platform for start-ups to gain global exposure to the industry, position their business amongst the leaders of vertical flight, as well as network with investors and key stakeholders.


Jonathan Heastie, Energy, Marine and Rotorcraft Portfolio Director at Reed Exhibitions said:

“This is a really exciting year for the show, with the launch of a brand-new identity and location. The core of who we are hasn’t changed – we continue to attract leading businesses from across the European helicopter industry, welcome highly regarded keynote speakers to discuss the latest trends and provide the ideal platform for all-important networking opportunities. Our new Innovation Launchpad will be a fantastic addition to the line-up at this year’s show, giving a spotlight to new and innovative start-up brands that are paving the way for the future of the industry.  2018 was a fantastic year for the show, and we have every belief that Vertical Flight Expo & Conference 2019 will equally be a great success.”


For more information or to register to attend, visit

Q&A with Patrick Wills, Co-founder of Earlymarket

Q&A with Patrick Wills, Co-founder of Earlymarket

Launching at Vertical Flight Expo 2019 this November, the new Innovation Launchpad – run in partnership with Earlymarket – will showcase the development of vertical flight technologies including helicopters, UAVs, eVTOLS, VTOLS and advanced drone hardware and software. Patrick Wills, co-founder of Earlymarket reveals what attendees can expect and how start-up businesses can get involved.

Can you tell us a bit about Earlymarket? What is your experience within the aviation industry?

Earlymarket is a family office that specialises in identifying high-potential early stage ventures before helping them launch to market. Earlymarket labs incubates start-ups and we take pride in working with passionate entrepreneurs that may not be investment ready today but through our support are able to transition to investable and successful businesses.

As a helicopter pilot, the aviation sector is of interest to me on both on a personal and professional level so I’m always on the look-out for young teams that are bringing something new or innovative to the industry.

Which aviation start-ups have you previously worked with?

We launched Helipaddy a few years ago and this is now a mature, revenue-generating business and highly rewarding to see such high pilot and hotel engagement. Get Heli is our latest aviation investment and went live recently which is nail-biting but exciting.

They operate in completely different areas: Helipaddy is a landing site application for landing site owners to advertise their locations to pilots or drone delivery companies. Get Heli brings the traditional operator/broker marketplace online with the ultimate goal of being able to give live helicopter transport prices.

We were also early investors in Flyt who are providing an easy way for consumers to book flights.  And we recently completed a consultancy project for a large well-known US-based company who are looking at expansion opportunities in Europe, and the UK in particular.

What attracted Earlymarket to partner with Vertical Flight Expo?

The aviation industry has undergone significant change over the past few years. My co-founder, Sarah Chenevix-Trench, and I are both helicopter pilots operating under EASA’s rules and therefore take a more conservative approach to air mobility when it comes to investing.  While we are excited about the momentum that has developed for passenger drones, we think the community that will attend Vertical will be more discerning than usual.  Regulators and rotorcraft associations are all present and we hope the eVTOL sector will spot the opportunity to connect with them.

What can we expect to see at the Innovation Launchpad? What are the benefits to getting involved?

We want to create an interactive platform at the event that demonstrates the innovation that is spearheaded by start-up businesses within the sector. We’re currently speaking to a number of businesses with new eVTOL, VTOL, UAV, drones and software solutions. Attendees will be able to connect with these businesses, see demonstrations, prototypes and hear from keynote speakers, providing insight into the latest innovation and scientific thinking within the field.

For participating companies, it offers an opportunity to gain global exposure to the industry, meet with the leaders of the vertical flight industry and gain exposure to investors.

The Innovation Launchpad will also place a strong focus on networking opportunities to offer start-ups the opportunity to meet with key stakeholders. To facilitate this, we will be hosting a ‘speed networking’ session with potential investors. Details of which will be announced soon.

Is the Innovation Launchpad just for start-ups?

While the focus is on start-up ventures, we welcome more established companies who have new technologies in the field that they’d like to showcase. The goal for the launchpad is to demonstrate and celebrate the most innovative ideas and technologies in vertical flight.

What will the ‘not to miss’ highlight be?

Keynote speakers will include academics and industry specialists as well as members from regulatory bodies such as the CAA. With the industry rapidly changing as drones and UAVs take an increasingly active role in new operations, their insight on the industry and changing regulations will be invaluable. Equally, the networking opportunities are not to be missed.

Anyone attending should definitely come by the Innovation Launchpad which will have some exciting new ideas on display.

What do you think is the most exciting upcoming technology or trend in vertical flight technologies?

Unmanned solutions for medical, government, cargo or military operations is a big area of interest. We’re also confident that we’re reaching a tipping point in the desire for clean energy and we hope to see some interesting technologies addressing the particularly high-power densities needed for aerospace.

The sheer creativity of the start-up community is what excites us. We never know what the next idea to come through the door will be. We look forward to welcoming attendees to join us at the Vertical Flight Expo, meet the entrepreneurs and business owners driving new innovations and discover potential investment opportunities.

If you are an air mobility company and would like to learn more about exhibiting at this year’s Vertical Flight Expo and the new Innovation Zone, please visit or contact

HAI Heli-Expo: News and announcements from Dart Aerospace, Boeing, Lord Corporation and more

HAI Heli-Expo: News and announcements from Dart Aerospace, Boeing, Lord Corporation and more

We had a great week at HAI Heli-Expo, visiting industry stakeholders and new and exciting companies that will join us at Vertical Flight Expo this November to serve the European vertical market with the latest technology and services. If one thing is clear from our time at the event, it’s that the market is evolving fast and we’ll talk more and more about electric and vertical technologies for the future.

With this in mind, there’s a perfect opportunity to bring together the rotorcraft industry with those working with unmanned technology and that’s what we are going to deliver in November. Vertical Flight Expo will create a space for dialogue and business to happen, 100% focused on delivering more cost effective and safer missions across the different sectors (Emergency, Defence/Government, CAT, Renewables, Oil & Gas, Agriculture and Surveying among others).

Before we unveil some new exciting news about our event in Farnborough, let’s review the announcements from this week at Heli-Expo by some of our confirmed 2019 exhibitors:

These are just a few of the companies returning to Vertical Flight Expo 2019. Make sure you pre-register to be up to date with all the news and announcements in the lead-up to the event. There’s still space available for you to showcase your tech to European rotorcraft and drone operators too – get in touch to find out more! We will be announcing some exciting new exhibitors very soon, so stay tuned for more info.

Symbiosis in the sky

Symbiosis in the sky

By Gerrard Cowan, Shephard Media

The interaction between UAVs and helicopters is set to be a key market driver in both unmanned and rotary domains over the next decade. The UAV/rotary relationship is complex: while UAVs could replace helicopters in some roles, regulations and other demands are likely to sustain manned flight elsewhere. There are also grey areas that combine the best of both worlds.

The rise of UAVs was a major focus at this year’s Helitech International, with a number of speakers addressing the topic over the three days. For example, Hannah Nobbs, innovation scout at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) – a charity that works to save lives at sea – presented ‘What we learned from exploring the potential of drones for maritime SAR’, alongside Phil Hanson, aviation technical assurance manager at the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Safety at sea

The RNLI and HM Coastguard recently held a series of demonstrations and challenges in South Wales called UK Search and Rescue in the Third Dimension, which explored the potential benefits of UAVs in a life-saving environment. Ahead of the publication of the results, Nobbs said there are likely to be a number of benefits that UAVs can provide in a life-saving role at sea in the future. For example, drones could be used to boost local situational awareness in the areas around lifeboats. This could be particularly useful for the organisation’s smaller, in-shore vessels, which are relatively low in the water, making it difficult to see over waves in higher sea states. ‘The idea is that we could help by having some awareness away from the boat,’ Nobbs told Helitech International Daily News, adding that these systems would have to be largely autonomous because there would not be the space or capacity to remotely operate UAVs from on board the lifeboats. The technology is not yet available for this, she added, but it could be feasible in future. Nobbs pointed out that it is possible that helicopters and UAVs could complement one another in the life-saving role in the coming years. While rotary-wing platforms and lifeboats would serve as rescue vehicles, UAVs could be used to support searches over large areas of water. ‘The quicker you can cover an area, the better,’ Nobbs said. ‘If you’ve got a helicopter platform that is flanked by drones, then that could allow you to make a much better and quicker assessment of an area, but you would still need the helicopter to pick someone up when needed.’

Gale of opportunity

UAVs could also play a major role in the offshore wind farm sector, said Dr Khalid Kamhawi, lead of advanced engineering at Offshore Wind Consultants (OWC), who will also be presenting on the subject at the show. Technological development and industry expectations point to a future in which UAVs ‘are the basic state of affairs’ in this area, he noted. ‘In the future, we will likely have the ability to control UAVs more easily and effectively,’ Kamhawi explained. ‘There is no pilot on board, so there is less operational risk, and [drones] are also likely to become cheaper, while regulatory change will mean they can be used in a wider range of roles.’ UAVs are currently used in a limited number of missions in offshore wind farms, Kamhawi said.

They are mainly deployed as inspection vehicles to check for damage or wear and tear on the blades. However, such platforms could eventually be utilised in a range of other tasks. Inspecting other parts of the turbine, such as the tower and the nacelles, and searching the surrounding area to ensure vessels, aircraft or migrating birds are not coming too close to the turbines are some possible uses.

In the longer term, UAVs could potentially be helpful in construction and maintenance, to transport light objects and spare parts, for example. Helicopters are currently used to transport people to turbines, Kamhawi said – mainly engineers who work on the equipment. While the offshore oil and gas industry relies on manned platforms, this is not the case in the wind sector, which is largely unmanned as there is naturally less of a need to transport people back and forth. However, that could change in the coming decades, Kamhawi suggested, with the development of ‘mega fields’ of turbines, which will likely include ‘islands’ staffed by engineers and other personnel who will conduct operations and maintenance work on the fields.

This concept would also require means of staff transportation, with helicopters being an obvious choice. However, UAVs may one day even be used in this role, said Kamhawi. ‘The major obstacle now is obviously legislation and regulations around the use of UAVs,’ he pointed out. ‘There is also the need for more experience – the technology is still not mature enough to do all the work that helicopters do.’

Innovative goals

There is also potential for elements of unmanned technology to be incorporated into rotorcraft. The Kopter SH09 will feature a four-axis autopilot, said Michele Riccobono, executive VP of technology at the OEM. While Kopter is not considering developing a fully unmanned version of the platform, the aircraft’s architecture – particularly the autopilot – ‘will easily allow it to transform into an optionally piloted/remotely piloted or unmanned version’. The company is displaying the first prototype – known as P1 – of the SH09 at Helitech International, wrapped in the colour scheme of a new customer (see p6).

Bell is considering the possibility of incorporating optionally piloted helicopters into its own fleet, said Scott Drennan, VP of innovation at Bell, who identified this as one of his goals for the company’s innovation future. ‘We’re seeing opportunities and desire from our customers to have the choice between a piloted mission and an unmanned or more autonomous mission,’ Drennan told Helitech International Daily News. He added that this demand is being driven by a diverse set of opportunities for optionally piloted helicopters. ‘One day, you might need to take 16 of your people out to an oil rig,’ he explained. ‘That is a mission where you would need a great pilot and other officers. But, then, another day, you might need to take some maintenance tools out to the same rig, so you might want to run the mission as unmanned.’

As well as reducing costs, Drennan suggested that this concept could also be beneficial from a safety and risk standpoint, as it would allow operators to rest their pilot and crew for another mission. He said Bell’s most modern helicopters could both be adapted to this role. These are the single-engine Bell 505 Jet Ranger X and the Bell 525 Relentless, a twin-engine super-medium platform. The 505 has been certified, while the plan is to have the 525 certified by the end of 2019, Drennan confirmed. ‘I think about the potential for optionally piloted across the entire fleet, whether it’s a small helicopter like the 505 or a big helicopter like the 525,’ he said.

Down to the wire

Drennan explained that the 525 will use fly-by-wire controls, which lend the platform to being optionally piloted. ‘We look at autonomy as a spectrum of capabilities, and we start it at fly-by-wire… to take some of the tasking away from the pilot and towards the computer in order to enhance safety and provide other advantages, depending on the vehicle.’ He said that the vision of a future in which people could climb into a vehicle, type in the co-ordinates and be transported to their destination ‘has fly-by-wire threaded through it… The gamechanger is to have fly-by-wire as the backbone of these systems.’ Optionally piloted vehicles sit somewhere between manned helicopters and these futuristic platforms, Drennan added. ‘Between those bookends you can imagine optionally piloted vehicles, a mix of manned and unmanned.’ Autonomous systems are also increasingly being used on board manned systems, Drennan added, supporting flight controls and situational awareness. ‘With rotorcraft in particular, the workload for the human pilot can get quite intense on some of the really challenging missions we operate in,’ he said. ‘Computers can do the dull, dirty and dangerous tasks very well.’

Click here to download Hannah Nobbs’ presentation, plus many more from the three days of Helitech International.