£125 million more UK public money going to fund aviation research to (possibly, eventually) minimally cut CO2 emissions

The aviation industry repeatedly gets money from the UK government, to help it try to find new technologies, or new fuels, that might slightly cut the carbon emissions of flights.  Instead of the industry funding this research itself, it always wants public money to help – money from taxpayers that could be better used.  If the aviation sector really wanted to cut its carbon emissions significantly, it would stop attempting to grow as fast as possible. If the government was serious about cutting aviation CO2, it would introduce measures to make flying more expensive and less attractive, in order to cut demand. But instead, money is spent on technologies that just – basically – involve continuing with “business as usual” and carrying on flying as much as possible.  Hopes of magical future technologies, or fuels, just postpone the day when they have to “bite the bullet” and reduce aviation growth. Now the UK government is spending another “£125 million in the Future of Flight Challenge, supported by an industry co-investment of £175 million, to fund development of technologies including cargo drones, urban air taxis and larger electric passenger aircraft.” Fiddling while Rome burns….


UK invests $368 million in ‘cleaner, greener’ forms of air transport

The UK has unveiled a more than £300 million ($368 million) government-industry investment to develop “cleaner, greener” forms of air transport, including electric and autonomous aircraft and sustainable alternative fuels.

The government will provide £125 million in the Future of Flight Challenge, supported by an industry co-investment of £175 million, to fund development of technologies including cargo drones, urban air taxis and larger electric passenger aircraft.

An additional £5 million has been awarded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to five new transport research networks led by the Universities of Birmingham, Durham and Leeds, Cardiff University and University College London. The funds will support work to develop cleaner fuels and other technologies to reduce emissions.

The first competition under the challenge, to create “compelling concept studies,” will open Sept. 30. Innovate UK plans to brief potential bidders by video conference on Sept. 5.

A presentation by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute, from a January workshop on the challenge, said its goal is to “[demonstrate] aviation systems incorporating low environmental impact, electrified, increasingly autonomous air vehicles and airspace management by 2025.”

The document describes four main areas of work under the challenge: new models of airspace management and “anticipatory regulation,” novel air vehicle demonstrators, ground infrastructure demonstrators for cities and “sub-regional airports,” and new operating models for users and commercial operators of air services.

Potential milestones outlined in the January presentation include: unmanned traffic management drone trials in 2021, deployment of initial services on a trial basis in 2022, and autonomous drones operating beyond visual-line-of-sight in UK airspace by 2023. Operation of drones in cities is also planned by 2023.

While it is not clear whether the timescales still hold, the document outlines plans to fly demonstrators of two electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing concepts in 2021, and conduct autonomous flights in 2023. The presentation also calls for demonstrators of two sub-regional, conventional-takeoff electric/hybrid-electric passenger aircraft: a modified existing aircraft in 2021 and an optimized aircraft in 2023.

Graham Warwick Graham.warwick@aviationweek.com




See earlier:

DfT, always trying to make aviation growth look “green”, to pay £434,000 to fund waste-to-jetfuel project

A project to turn landfill waste into (quotes) “sustainable” jet fuel has received a major boost by securing almost £5m of funding from the government and industry backers. The DfT has committed £434,000 to fund the next stage of the project, which will involve engineering and site studies to scope potential for a waste-based jet fuel plant in the UK.  This will take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste – otherwise destined for landfill – and convert it into jet fuel. The project is being led by biofuels firm Velocys, which has committed £1.5m to the next phase of development. The scheme has also secured a further £3m from industry partners, including Shell and British Airways. BA hopes to use the fuel, to claim it is cutting its carbon emissions (while continuing to grow, burning ever more fuel). The DfT is keen to give the impression that UK aviation expansion is fine, if some biofuels, or alternative fuels, are used. The funding for the Velocys project is part of £22m alternative fuels fund from the government, to advance development of “sustainable” fuels for aviation and freight transport. As of April 2018 renewable jet fuel also qualifies for credits under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO).   


Prototype “Hybrid Air Vehicle” (HAV) – the “Airlander” – may have its first flight this year – government funding

The world’s longest aircraft has been unveiled.  It is an experimental hybrid, which looks like a giant (helium filled) airship – which has a pod slung underneath, two small engine rotors and small wings. It is the shape of two rugby-ball shapes linked in the middle with a joining section. It uses little fuel and its advocates say it is “70% greener than a cargo plane.” If the giant models can be made to work, they may be able to carry up to 50 tonnes payload. It can land on a small space, or on water, and so is being promoted as possibly helpful to land aid and equipment to remote disaster areas with no long runways. The machines could also be used for long term surveillance as they can stay aloft for days or weeks, and be remotely operated. The length of the prototype is 302ft (92m) which is some 60ft longer than the Airbus A380 or the massive cargo-carrying Antonov An-225. The company developing it has now received £2.5m of UK government funding for development “of quieter, more energy efficient and environmentally friendly planes.”  Business Secretary Vince Cable hopes this will be an “innovative low carbon aircraft which can keep us at the cutting edge of new technology …… to lead the world in its field.”  They may be able to “fly over the Amazon at 20ft, over some of the world’s greatest cities and stream the whole thing on the internet.”  However, supplies of helium are limited, and non-renewable.  Some experts suggest supplies of helium could be depleted by the middle of the century. 



UK government recommits to funding support for development of advanced aviation biofuels

Mon 28 Aug 2017 (GreenAir online)

The UK government has recommitted to providing up to £22 million ($28m) towards funding for projects to develop advanced low carbon, waste-based advanced fuels for planes and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). The fund, which must be matched by industry, is expected to help deliver up to five new plants in the UK by 2021 that will produce advanced fuels to be used in aircraft and lorries where it is not yet viable to switch to electric power. The UK’s Department for Transport (DfT), in association with engineering and environmental consultancy Ricardo, first launched the ‘Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition’ (F4C) in April to invite applications for the funding …. more at