The University of Strathclyde is part of a consortium created to develop more sustainable aircraft capable of short-haul operations across the Highlands and Islands.

Strathclyde has partnered with Loganair, Rolls-Royce and the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS) for the six-month project, which is also being supported by Scottish Enterprise.

As well as looking at creating an aircraft capable of short-haul operations, the group will assess the ability of the Scottish Aviation supply chain to support the industrialisation of such a product.

Net zero

Project ‘Eilean’ – the Gaelic for island –  is funded by the Scottish Government as part of its drive towards becoming a net zero economy by 2045.

The new aircraft will replace the ageing fleet of aircraft currently operating on routes to the islands.

Professor Matthew Maynard, Director of Strategic Projects at Strathclyde, said: “This project brings together the capabilities of the partners and the ambitions of the Scottish Government, to achieve the goal of net zero aviation.

“Building on our long standing partnership with Rolls-Royce in Electrification and Manufacturing, the Strathclyde Business School are bringing their expertise to determine the business viability of producing an electrically powered aircraft that serves the Scottish Highland & Islands and provides a significant export market opportunity for the Scottish Aviation industry.” 

Ian Risk, chief technology officer at CFMS, said: “We hope to take a holistic view of the requirements from a wide range of stakeholders to identify the basis of an aircraft concept that has been optimised for sustainability whilst remaining a truly economic proposition for Scotland.

“The digital engineering skills we have developed over the last 10 years will enable the partners to move away from the traditional approach of identifying a single concept based on historic preconceptions.

“Instead, by taking a truly model-based approach and harnessing the computational power of our facilities we can explore a wide range of potential product options, providing decision makers with a far richer understanding of what is feasible and why.

“In this way we can ensure that aviation continues to play its vital role in economic development and keeping our communities connected.”

Key output

Scotland’s trade minister Ivan McKee said: “Project Eilean is a key output of the Rolls-Royce Working Group, which was established by the Scottish Government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and supports our wider ambitions to become a net zero economy by 2045.

“Decarbonising air travel is a crucial part of that ambition; I am pleased to see this transformational work progressing and I very much look forward to seeing the results.”