Green-sky thinking: UK aerospace invests £273m in solar-powered drones

Environmentally friendly aircraft, ultra-efficient wings and drones carrying medical supplies are among the technology backed by fund

NHS drones courier chemotherapy drugs in a bid to speed up the delivery of vital medicines. PA
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The UK on Monday used the platform of Farnborough International Airshow to launch a £273 million ($327m) green-sky revolution, a vital plank of its Jet Zero policy to decarbonise aviation by 2050.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng listed solar-powered aircraft, ultra-efficient wings and drones carrying medical supplies among some of the technology backed by the funds to advance low-carbon aerospace innovation, economic growth and jobs.

"The return of the Farnborough International Airshow after a four-year absence is a clear example of the aerospace and aviation sector’s recovery," he told people at the event on Monday.

"Today’s package of support will further this recovery and help the sector seize on the enormous opportunities for growth that exist as the world transitions to cleaner forms of flight.

"Through funding for the latest in green technology, such as solar and hydrogen powered aircraft, and setting out our vision for the fast-growing market for commercial drones, we are once again placing the aerospace sector directly at the centre of our plans to deliver jobs and grow the economy.

The financial breakdown and forecasts was these plans were laid out in a government statement released in conjunction with Mr Kwarteng's appearance.

The Aerospace Technology Institute estimates ATI Programme projects are set to secure 81,000 jobs, while contributing £97 billion of economic value to the UK.

In addition, £155m of joint government-industry funding has been announced to support new projects unlocking the latest in green aerospace innovation, such as hydrogen and battery technology, and ultra-efficient manufacturing processes and technology, such as digital and additive manufacturing – generating further job opportunities and leads in emerging technology and sectors.

A further £105.5m of government-industry funding will be shared by projects focused on developing air transport systems and enabling new vehicle technology through the Future Flight Challenge. The projects could create more than 8,800 jobs and include making motorways safer and improving journey times by using electric drones to survey hazards, to using electric drones to distribute medical treatments across Scotland, including to cancer patients.

A more conventionally powered Boeing 777X plane takes part in Farnborough Airshow where the package of green measures was announced. AFP

Up to £12m is to be made available through the Regulators’ Pioneer Fund to back projects that could unlock industries of the future through regulation – from flying cars to vaccine-carrying drones.

Drones to deliver 650,000 jobs by 2030

A Drone Ambition Statement was also published, outlining how government and industry can work together to seize on drones’ potential £45bn of benefit to the economy by 2030.

Produced in collaboration with the Drone Industry Action Group, the statement described how the UK will embed a business environment that supports the development of drone technology and can deliver 650,000 jobs in the sector by 2030.

"Integrating drones into our transport system will play a huge part in better connecting communities, from potentially delivering vital NHS treatment in isolated communities to capturing high-quality aerial imaging for rescue teams," said UK Transport Minister Robert Courts.

"The steps we have set out today will ensure our aviation sector remains world-leading and fit for the future, helping to deliver on our ambitious climate change goals and boost high-skilled job opportunities."

Updated: July 19, 2022, 4:17 AM