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Connect Derby Operations manager takes to the skies over the iHub

Connect Derby Operations Manager, Ros Stacey took the trip of a lifetime recently as she trialled a virtual reality flight over the iHub innovation centre on Infinity Park in Derby.

The virtual reality flight took place at the home of VRCO, an advanced aviation company, which is currently developing the NeoXCraft, a revolutionary flying car, from its home at the iHub.

The VR flight replicates the experience of taking your car to the skies, which it is hoped will become a reality when the exciting NeoXCraft achieves its certification in 2020.

Ros donned her VR headset and took control of the vehicle’s joy-sticks for the breath-taking experience, which once operational, is set to turn a two-and-a-half-hour drive into a 30-minute commute.

VRCO was co-founded by Daniel Hayes and Michael Smith. who have more than 30 years’ experience working with technology, engineering, manufacturing, product design and systems analysis.

The NeoXcraft is an electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) vectored thrust high-speed vehicle that will fly, drive on land, and can land and take off on water. Using four high-powered fans the NeoXCraft will be able to achieve speeds of up to 200mph after taking off. The fans will fold down to become wheels for land-based driving.

It has been under development by VRCO since 2016 in collaboration with the Institute for Innovation and Sustainable Engineering at the University of Derby.

VRCO are now developing the physical flying prototypes at the iHub and have benefited from verification services by AddQual, parts provision by Composite Braiding, fabrication work by HPS, Sensors from Quanergy and certification support by G&P, all of which are hosted in the iHub, bringing together an ideal eco system to support the building of their eVTOL NeoXcraft.

Since it was launched almost three years ago, the iHub has attracted a diverse range of businesses from across the rail, aerospace and automotive supply industries. As well as 18 traditional office workspaces, it features 14 ground floor workshops for businesses seeking a more hybrid working environment which recently reached 100% occupancy.

The innovation centre builds on the success of the hugely popular Connect Derby scheme, which has created a strong market for mixed use and sector specific serviced offices across the city at its six other buildings – Friar Gate Studios, Marble Hall, Riverside Chambers, Sadler Bridge Studios, Kings Chambers and Shot Tower.

Speaking about taking the demo, Ros Stacey, operations manager at Connect Derby, said:

“It was amazing seeing the iHub from the skies. It’s such an out-of-this-world experience to even try the craft in virtual reality – I can’t imagine how incredible it’s going to be to actually travel in the NeoXCraft on a regular basis.

“Seeing the iHub in this way was quite an experience and has made me realise what an impressive building it is.”

Mike Smith and Daniel Hayes, co-founders of VRCO, added:

“Developing the VR experience flights gives people today a taste of what flying in a NeoXCraft will be like – or as close as we can currently achieve until the full-size craft is ready for trialling in late 2020.

“This environment also allows us to model the utilisation of low altitude airspace and how we can optimise it’s governance to include a variety of aircrafts at different concentration levels.”

The £12m iHub, which has Enterprise Zone status, provides flexible workspace for businesses looking to establish themselves or expand their role in the transport engineering and hi-tech sectors.

Tenants now include global aerospace giant Airbus; Altran, a world leader in engineering and R&D services; Composite Braiding, specialists in thermoplastic composite braiding and Pattonair, which provides distribution and supply chain management services to the aerospace and defence sectors.

An addition to the facilities at the iHub is the innovative ‘iLab’, which promotes invention by enabling the rapid prototyping of a range of products and services. It features high end virtual reality, 3D printing and surface microscope equipment.

The building also offers a multi-purpose ‘heart space’ area, available for hosting external conferences and events, along with meeting and seminar rooms.

The development has received funding from the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as well as Derby City Council and the University of Derby.


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