Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) has embarked on a £3.7m project to develop a sustainable aviation programme that could transform short flight travel between remote communities.
Part funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE) project will create the UK’s first low-carbon aviation test centre at HIAL’s Kirkwall Airport in the Orkney Islands.
The project will operate for an 18 month period, with different types of low-carbon aircraft tested to identify the next generation of air services, as well as the operational infrastructure necessary to support them.
The SATE project brings together a consortium of aviation industry specialists, local Orkney and Caithness businesses, public sector bodies and academia.
Technology partners Ampaire, ZeroAvia, Loganair, Windracers and Flarebright will trial low-carbon aircraft using electric, hydrogen or sustainable aviation fuels to replace conventional fossil fuels – as well as drone applications for supplying on-demand medical supplies to remote health centres.
Consortium members will also look at how to implement zero-carbon airport infrastructure using green energy sources, as well as digital networking and the development of resilient communications.
The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), Denchi Group, Orkney-based Cloudnet, Air Service Training, University of the Highlands and Islands, The Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Orkney Islands Council complete the partnership.
HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon said: “The project will identify the necessary supply chain and people skills to support the development and testing of the new technologies, with the aim of developing a Highlands and Islands sustainable aviation sector, stimulating inward investment and local supply chain opportunities.
“It will also measure local community appetite for the new aircraft technology, especially on lifeline regional routes, and the potential impact on the regional economy from the adoption of these new technologies.”
Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson added: “This test centre has the potential to put Scotland at the forefront of the transition to low carbon aviation and is an important step towards delivering our commitment to decarbonise scheduled passenger flights within Scotland by 2040. “