Heathrow is seeking funding for projects aimed at boosting the sustainability of the UK aviation industry
Project NAPKIN aims to help catalyse the development of zero emission flight technologies
Heathrow has today announced it is moving forward with two projects designed to help enhance its role as a hub for research into tackling the flight industry’s emissions, after pitching the proposals to the government’s £125m Future Flight Challenge.
The first of the two projects would explore how technologies such as cloud infrastructure and blockchain could use the airport’s data more efficiently, creating a decentralised operating model that supports cross-company collaboration. Named Fly2Plan, the concept could help support new entrants to the market, cut costs, and allow autonomous drone operators to maximise their use of UK airspace, Heathrow said.
The second project aims to develop a broader blueprint for the UK aviation industry’s decarbonisation journey, boosting domestic connectivity and positioning the UK as a leader in sustainable aviation, Heathrow explained. The initiative is dubbed Project NAPKIN, which stands for New Aviation Propulsion Knowledge and Innovation Network.
If selected, funding for the projects would come through Innovate UK’s Future Flight Challenge, which is endowed with £125m in government grants. The challenge has three main objectives: safeguarding the UK’s advantage in aerospace research and development; reducing aviation emissions; and creating economic opportunities from new forms of air mobility.
Heathrow’s research proposal – which would encompass drones, air mobility, air traffic management, and infrastructure innovation – brings together established leaders in aviation, academics and the tech industry to research the use of drones, air mobility, air traffic management, and infrastructure innovation. The Airport said it would work with a number of groups to develop its projects, including Oxford University, Rolls Royce, and London City Airport.
“Heathrow has always served as a testbed for ground-breaking green technologies,” said Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye. “These concepts go further than ever before, with the potential to transform the role that aviation plays in Britain’s economy.”
Aviation, which is responsible for around 2.5 per cent of global emissions, remains among the most challenging sectors to decarbonise, with efforts focused on technological and engineering advances to make the industry more sustainable, such as electric engines for shorter journeys and sustainable fuels and more efficient designs for longer-haul flights.
However, the challenge remains acute and campaigners have argued that bolder policy measures are required to curb demand, such as frequent flier levies and tighter restrictions on airport expansion.