Pilotless hydrogen-powered jets for domestic flights?

The plan is to automate a light utility aircraft that could carry up to 19 passengers travelling through the ‘UK’s first’ zero carbon regional network

Technology that could enable Brits to travel between towns and cities in the UK, by fully automated hydrogen-powered jets is set to be developed.

On a draft seen by ELN, the British manufacturer Britten-Norman will collaborate with the unmanned systems developer Blue Bear Systems, to automate its light utility aircraft Islander, to travel through what is claimed to be the ‘UK’s first’ zero carbon regional network.

The consortium plans to work on the so-called ‘HEART project’ over five years to create the foundation for a fully sustainable and scalable commercial aviation network that could connect different cities in the UK.

The project, which aims to transform air transportation for cargo and passengers, will focus on automating an aircraft that will have a capacity of up to 19 passengers and utilising up to 100 licensed airfields across the country.

It is believed that the project will begin with single-pilot operations, with an autonomous co-pilot providing assistance and will enter service in the mid-2020s.

The new technology is predicted to lead to a ‘significant’ cost and carbon saving for regional air operators.

Members of the project include among others, the aircraft company ZeroAvia, the hydrogen solutions firm Protium, the satellite communications authority Inmarsat and the regional airline Loganair.

Lara Harrison, Business Development Director of Britten-Norman, said: “We are looking forward to working closely with Blue Bear Systems to produce the next generation automation for the Islander.

“Project HEART represents an important step towards the future of aviation in the UK. I look forward to the consortium working together to revitalise and expand the UK’s regional air transport network.”

If you enjoyed this story you can sign up to our weekly email for Energy Live News – and if you’re interested in hearing more about the journey to net zero by 2050, you can also sign up to the future Net Zero newsletter. 

Latest Podcast