Arcadis appointed to deliver first low-carbon aviation test centre

The site will be located at Kirkwall Airport and aims to establish a new generation of air services

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) has appointed Arcadis – a leading global design and consultancy firm – to create the infrastructure needed for the UK’s first operationally based, low-carbon test centre.  

Kirkwall Airport in the Orkney Islands is the chosen base for the complex, which is part of the SATE (Sustainable Aviation Test Environment) project. The scheme aims to deliver the next generation of air services, alongside the infrastructure needed to support the future of sustainable aviation.

Kirkwall Airport
Photo Wiki Commons/Mike Pennington

The £3.7m project was launched in November and is partly funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the means of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. It was established as part of the UKRI’s Future Flight Challenge and will run for 18 months.

“It is great that Arcadis are delivering this project for Scotland, where their expertise in the design and development of critical infrastructure will support our sustainable aviation strategy. This investment into the UK market will not only help us meet our net-zero ambitions, but also create high quality jobs for the future that will level up the whole of the UK,” said Gerry Grimstone, minister for investment.

Arcadis work with an array of companies within the aviation sector, including HIAL, as well as local businesses, public sector bodies and those working in academia. Collectively, members will explore the options available to implement carbon-neutral infrastructure using green energy sources.

New transport options will also be trialled, including low-carbon aircraft which use electric, hydrogen or other sustainable aviation fuels to replace the standard fossil fuels. Drone applications for supplying medical supplies on demand will also be tested.

The consultancy firm plan to create the associated economic developments to support the testing process. This includes a new airport apron, hangars, ancillary buildings, taxi-way upgrades, new power cables and creating safer road access.

Engineering services will also be provided by the company, ensuring the project is administered is a sustainable way.

Situated away from the main airport operations, the new test site’s structures are intended for later use around the airport once the project is complete.

Due to its quiet airspace and its role as a hub airport, Kirkwall was selected as the ideal test environment for the new project. Addressing the challenges to improve regional air connectivity is a crucial aspect of the site, alongside helping to decarbonise the Highlands and Islands region.

According to Arcadis, the project will enable room for job creation and will use local renewable energy – both of which support Orkney’s net zero ambitions.