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Project HEART - Hydrogen-Electric & Automated Regional Transportation

Project HEART will develop a UK wide fully sustainable and scalable air transport network: increasing the number of regional airports and reducing the cost of flights, while contributing to the UK’s net-zero targets.

A consortium of British SMEs and academics have announced the formation of Project HEART as part of the Government’s Future Flight Challenge. The consortium will work on the project – Hydrogen-Electric & Automated Regional Transportation – over 5 years to create the foundation for a fully sustainable and scalable commercial aviation network that could connect the whole of the UK.

HEART aims to transform air transportation in the UK for cargo and passengers. The project will focus on transforming 9 – 19 passenger capacity aircraft and utilise up to 100 licensed General Aviation airfields around the UK. The partnership identified the main challenges facing regional air transport, aiming to address them during the project. Each member of HEART will focus on combating a specific issue including cutting carbon emissions to zero, reducing costs to operators and passengers, expanding regional airports and increasing the frequency of services.

As the UK’s only sovereign commercial aircraft manufacturer with over 65 years’ experience designing and manufacturing aircraft, Britten-Norman will work with Blue Bear Systems to automate the Islander. Known as a rugged workhorse, the aircraft serves in a variety of roles from passenger and cargo transport to medevac and search & rescue. Its adaptability, as well as short take-off and landing abilities, has made it the backbone of communities around the world. The project’s first milestone will be to demonstrate single pilot operations with an autonomous co-pilot providing access to more information and assistance than human perception alone can provide.

The project’s breakthroughs will allow regional air transport to compete with traditional ground services. A zero-carbon aircraft that was able to offer higher frequency services, with more day return scheduling and reduced travel times, could become a significant rival to road and rail journeys. This is critical to the UK’s levelling up agenda, improving transport links between the UK’s regions and cities.

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