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Airlander airship “can greatly improve connectivity in Highland and Island communities”

Hybrid Air Vehicles has today announced the results of a new concept study into the role of the Airlander airship “finding that it can deliver cost-effective, low-emission passenger transport and freight to the Highland and Island communities in the North of Scotland.”

“The report highlights that Airlander could help to decarbonise regional travel, add freight capacity into the network and could also provide further economic growth through tourism,” said an accompanying press release. “It also analyses the forecast dispatch availability given the imperative to maximise operations in the prevailing conditions with minimal delays. The report found that Airlander would provide a high dispatch availability when surveyed against historic weather data and can operate successfully from a range of airports, small Island airfields and bodies of sheltered water.

“The study concluded that the integration of Airlander into established inter-island transport services could greatly improve regional connectivity, offering a significant expansion of current services, in an area that has been traditionally hard to serve given its outlying islands and highly variable weather conditions. Airlander represents a new category of transport that will enable initially low emissions services with the promise of modification to zero emissions (using electric propulsion and green hydrogen fuel cells). This will assist the region to attain the goal of a net zero Scottish regional air transport by 2040.

“Airlander 10 allows a 10 tonne or 100 passenger capacity to be delivered to small airfields currently suited to much smaller aircraft, with low-cost and nominal adaptations to existing infrastructure. The total cost of modifying the six airfields surveyed was less than £2 million.

“In the important logistics and freight sector, the report found that the introduction of Airlander in the North of Scotland could provide 79% more air freight capacity compared with 2021, an increase of 43,800 tonnes – the equivalent of 21.9 million extra average sized parcels, thus increasing access to consumer goods and services in a timely manner.

“As part of this study, seven on-site surveys were carried out by engineers across HIAL and Orkney Islands Council’s diverse airport portfolios, taking into consideration historic weather conditions at each site, as well as runway, boarding and landing infrastructure to assess the compatibility of these existing locations with the operational needs of Airlander. The locations included Kirkwall, Papa Westray, Stornoway, Barra, Inverness, Sumburgh and Scapa Bay.

“The report surmised that Airlander is well-suited to deliver a new network offering to the Highlands and Islands. Airlander would be a greatly beneficial addition to the transport ecosystem, with minimal disruption, that can create new opportunities for economic growth and the development of tourism in the region, with only simple and inexpensive infrastructure upgrades needed.

The study was part funded by the UK Government through UKRI funding to the SATE (Sustainable Aviation Test Environment) project of which HAV is a partner.The report was supported by AECOM, Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL), Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Orkney Islands Council (OIC) and Loganair who are all engaged stakeholders in the development and potential of Airlander and how it may operate in the region and offer new solutions to connectivity challenges.

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