Inmarsat joins Project HEART for zero carbon air network

Inmarsat is taking part in Project HEART, a government-funded initiative to develop Britain’s first automated, zero carbon regional air transportation network. 

Project HEART
Project HEART will develop hydrogen powered and automated piloting solutions for small aircraft carrying between 9 and 19 passengers on ‘short hops’ (Image: Inmarsat)

Project HEART (Hydrogen Electric and Automated Regional Transportation) aims to develop hydrogen powered, automated and remote piloting solutions for small aircraft carrying 9-to-19 passengers that take ‘short hop’ journeys of under 500 nautical miles.

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According to Inmarsat, ‘short hop’ air travel is economically unsustainable and reliant on government subsidies to cover high maintenance and running costs. Project HEART aims to offer an affordable alternative that addresses these deficiencies with next-generation technology and a ‘system-of-systems’ approach, bringing together a network of experts to re-develop the entire aviation network.

As part of this approach, Inmarsat will provide a hybrid connectivity solution that combines its satellite communications with terrestrial networks, enabling remote ‘digital’ co-piloting and critical communication in the cockpit. This allows the human pilot and the digital co-pilot functions, designed by Blue Bear Systems Research, to work together and for operations to be managed remotely. The technology will be evaluated on Britten-Norman aircraft.

In a statement, Philip Balaam, president of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Project HEART represents a greener, smarter and more efficient future for aviation. Working alongside our extensive network of partners, including Honeywell Aerospace, we are particularly excited about enabling remote operations for aviation networks of the future.”

Project HEART is led by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and is funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Future Flight Challenge (FFC). Up to 100 licensed airfields throughout the UK will be made available as part of the initiative, which is expected to enter service in 2025.

Other innovations in development for Project HEART include hydrogen fuel cell powertrains for aircraft (led by ZeroAvia), hydrogen refuelling solutions (led by Protium), and a Mobility as a Service platform, with integrated sub-regional flight travel mode (led by Fleetondemand), with acceptance testing headed by The Transport Research Institute of Edinburgh Napier University. Architects Weston Williamson + Partners will lead on new airport infrastructure design, while Loganair and Highland and Island Airports Limited will lead on accommodation of automation and hydrogen fuelled aircraft operations.