Inmarsat‘s European Aviation Network could soon be part of a hydrogen-powered regional flying scheme in the United Kingdom. The effort, driven by the UK government, will also explore the option of single-pilot operations for commercial flights, using the data network to offer support for that pilot while in the sky.
Project HEART represents a greener, smarter and more efficient future for aviation. We are proud to support this important project of the UK Government, utilising our 30 years of experience in satellite communication, navigation and surveillance for both commercial and private aviation, as well as expertise in unmanned vehicle traffic management.– Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation
Project HEART (Hydrogen Electric and Automated Regional Transportation) will develop hydrogen powered, automated and remote piloting solutions for small aircraft carrying between 9 and 19 passengers, travelling ‘short hops’ of fewer than 500 nautical miles.
The EAN data network expects to support the operation’s automation connectivity needs. Inmarsat will also contribute its expertise in navigation and position tracking for the effort. The EAN solution is particularly well suited to the effort given its high bandwidth terrestrial links and tiny on-board hardware requirements. The company presented the offering to the business aviation community in 2018 and has demonstrated the technology successfully in that segment.
Update: Inmarsat has clarified that, despite promising a hybrid terrestrial and satellite-based connectivity solution (i.e. EAN), the initial implementation will run on the company’s L-band network.
Inmarsat Aviation President Philip Balaam notes the company is “particularly excited about enabling remote operations for aviation networks of the future.” Getting to a scenario where consumers and regulators are comfortable with single-pilot or fully remote operations for passenger traffic could prove challenging. But project HEART represents a concerted effort by a combination of companies – and the government – to bring that sort of operation to life.
Inmarsat expects its hybrid connectivity solution that enables “remote ‘digital’ co-piloting and journey critical communications.” The remote, digital co-pilot solution, designed by Blue Bear Systems Research, is designed to integrate with the human pilot while adding effective remote management options. The technology initially is expected to be evaluated on Britten-Norman aircraft.
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). The consortium comprises of leading UK technology companies that will contribute resources in the areas of technology, operations, infrastructure and think tank experience.
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