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£3.7 Million Project to Test Sustainable Aviation in Orkney

3 min

Kirkwall Airport c. Anne Flickr

Following the announcement that Orkney is to become a sustainable aviation test environment, Quadrant Transport sits down with SATE’s project manager, David Holden, to learn more about the project and how it supports Scotland’s sustainability goals.

The SATE (Sustainable Aviation Test Environment) project will create the UK’s first operationally based, low-carbon aviation test centre at HIAL’s Kirkwall Airport in the Orkney Islands. It is part-funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

David Holden, SATE Project

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) has embarked on a £3.7 million project to develop a sustainable aviation programme that could transform short flight travel between remote communities.

Speaking to Quadrant Transport project manager of SATE, David Holden, said its “primary mission is to help deliver economic benefit and connectivity to the Highlands and Islands.”

Providing “better connectivity and more flights” at a “lower operating cost” could mean in the future HIAL will be able to give “lower air prices in the future” explained David.

Launched as part of UKRI’s Future Flight Challenge, which supports the development of greener ways to fly, the project will operate for an 18-month period.

Different types of low-carbon aircraft will be tested to identify the next generation of air services as well as the operational airport infrastructure necessary to support sustainable aviation.

By testing different types of low-carbon aircraft “the roll-out of these technologies commercially will be quicker” and “it will bring interest in being able to commercially test the technologies up in Scotland” David said.

SATE’s technology partners — Ampaire, ZeroAvia, Loganair, Windracers and Flarebright — will trial a host of exciting new transport options. This will include testing low-carbon aircraft using electric, hydrogen or Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) to replace conventional fossil fuels, as well as drone applications for supplying on-demand medical supplies to health centres.

Kirkwall: The perfect place to decarbonise aviation

Based in Kirkwall, this will be “the UK’s first operationally based low carbon test centre” David told Quadrant Transport. The location is “unique” as they “can test not just the technology but the commercial application of that technology” he added.

“[At Kirkwall] we can actually fly the aeroplanes with the new technology on established routes in real-world environments and we can prove the economic benefits” David explained. He also stressed the importance of trialling the technologies in a real-world environment, which Kirkwall airport offers.

We can actually fly the aeroplanes with the new technology on established routes in real-world environments and we can prove the economic benefits

Supporting Scotland’s 2040 decarbonisation targets, this project and the technology its trialling “is making a contribution to the wider ability of aviation to move to the low-carbon world” added David.

David rounded up the interview by explaining that the project helps with Scotland’s 2040 decarbonisation and said “this will be the first step in being able to establish a longer-term test centre where we can start to build capabilities locally both through skills and training of locals who will work and be a part of the development of the test centre.”