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4/30/2024 - HITRANS forge new partnership to deliver pioneering low carbon aviation in the Highlands and Islands


HITRANS, the regional transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands which has recently taken over the management of a project to create the UK’s first operationally based, low-carbon aviation test centre at HIAL’s Kirkwall Airport in the Orkney Islands, has taken the pioneering project forward through a partnership with a leading manufacturer of hybrid airships to investigate the feasibility of deploying six such airships on Highlands and Islands services.


The agreement between HITRANS and Hybrid Air Vehicles, who are based in Bedford, includes developing a full business case for the commercial operation of the Airlander 10 aircraft in the region for passenger and freight services, through a new joint study, which is a continuation of earlier concept and feasibility study work. This activity represents a significant further commitment by HITRANS in the research and planning of future decarbonised air services in its distinctively remote part of the UK.


To support the potential for new services in the region, Hybrid Air Vehicles will also reserve early production slots for six Airlander 10 aircraft for HITRANS and it is hoped that together with a proven business case, this will enable HITRANS and Hybrid Air Vehicles to identify a commercial operator to begin delivering services in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands.


The integration of Airlander 10 will also support the region’s goal of net-zero air transport by 2045.


Airlander 10 is a new type of ultra-low emissions aircraft capable of carrying 100 passengers, or ten tonnes of freight payload, or a combination of both, with up to 90% fewer emissions when compared like-for-like with similar aircraft. It has unique capabilities, such as its inherent efficiency and its ability to take-off and land with limited infrastructure, which make it ideally suited to meet specific needs in the Highlands and Islands and comparable remote and island geographies globally.


The announcement builds on an earlier feasibility study between HITRANS and Hybrid Air Vehicles, through the UKRI-funded Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE), which found that Airlander 10 can substantially improve the provision of low carbon emissions passenger and freight services for the region with minimal investment in infrastructure upgrades.


Throughout 2024, Hybrid Air Vehicles has announced significant progress toward the full-scale production and market-entry of Airlander 10, its first aircraft, by the end of this decade. In February 2024, it announced that Type Certification had begun with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, which would regulate the aircraft for civil aviation roles. In March 2024, it announced a flagship production site at Carcroft Common, in South Yorkshire, with the backing of the City of Doncaster Council and South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.


Ranald Robertson, Director of HITRANS, said: “We are delighted to be in the forefront of such pioneering work to introduce low carbon aviation in the UK and are excited to see early concept work progress further towards eventual service. We are committing resources and effort to work with even greater focus with Hybrid Aviation Vehicles to produce a compelling business case, that will attract the commercial interest and investment required. This is a direct product of the successful SATE (Sustainable Aviation Test Environment) project, supported by UKRI, where the challenges of connectivity in Northern Scotland are proving an ideal test for both the technical and commercial capabilities of new technology.”




About HITRANS, the Highland and Islands Transport Partnership

The Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) is the statutory regional transport partnership for Na h-Eileanan Siar, Highland, Moray, Orkney Islands and Argyll and Bute. It was created by Transport Scotland under the Transport (Scotland) Act 2005, along with six similar groups covering other areas of Scotland. HITRANS covers the largest area of any such partnership in Scotland, covering over 50% of the country's total landmass.

Its main functions are to determine and deliver better transport, both locally and nationally, and to act as a catalyst for regeneration of the region's economy.

HITRANS makes plans through its Regional Strategy, which was first approved by the Scottish Government in 2008. It was later refreshed in 2017.


About SATE

The Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE), part of the UKRI Future Flight Challenge, is the UK’s first operationally based low-carbon aviation test centre, based at Kirkwall Airport on Orkney.

Led by the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS), SATE brings together an international consortium of industry partners, public sector bodies and academia which work with a range of regional businesses and stakeholders to apply state-of-the-art aviation technology to deliver targeted economic growth. 

The Highlands and Islands represents an ideal “living laboratory” for emergent aviation technologies, demonstrating their practical applications in addressing connectivity challenges, as well as creating an emerging new sector with significant job creation potential. SATE is at the forefront in progressing both the UK and Scottish government’s aviation aspirations and has already delivered new airport infrastructure and demonstrated hybrid-electric aircraft and autonomous logistics. 

The SATE programme aspires to become the UK Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Regional Aviation Systems.

While the SATE facilities are based at Kirkwall Airport, SATE 2 is working with other Highlands & Islands communities and matching the new technology with practical use cases to benefit communities in the Highlands and Islands. 

Use cases developed in SATE have been, and will continue to be, supported by Orkney, Shetland, Western Isles and Highland councils. Use case projects from the initial phase include serving the NHS, NatureScot, Orkney Food and Drink, Streamline Shipping and Royal Mail.




About Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd


Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd (HAV) is a UK-based leader in sustainable aircraft technologies and the company behind Airlander, a family of ultra-efficient aircraft capable of delivering zero emissions flight across travel and tourism, logistics, regional mobility, and communications and surveillance.


HAV’s first production aircraft, the Airlander 10 is capable of delivering 100-seat passenger mobility, a ten-tonne payload of freight transportation, or any combination of the two. Airlander 10’s production at a purpose-built factory in South Yorkshire will begin in 2024 and will be the centre of a green advanced manufacturing boom in the region, creating over 1,200 long-term jobs across the UK as HAV works towards a production rate of 24 new aircraft per year.


Airlander 10’s entry into service programme paves the way for the introduction of larger Airlander variants, capable of transporting greater payloads over further distances and offering new possibilities for decarbonisation of the hard to abate aviation sector, particularly in the freight and logistics which currently account for over 20% of the entire sector’s emissions.


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