Kirkwall Airport (Credit HIAL) 930

Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE)

Kirkwall Airport set to be the location for a  Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (Courtesy of SATE)

Kirkwall Airport set to be the location for a Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (Courtesy of SATE)

Project overview:

The SATE project project will create the UK’s first operationally-based, low-carbon aviation test centre at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL)’s Kirkwall Airport in the Orkney Islands.

The project will trial a host of exciting aviation technologies including low-carbon aircraft that utilise electric, hydrogen or synthetic fuel to replace conventional fossil fuels.
It will also trial UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), e.g. drones, and demonstrate how they can be used to meet the needs of real-life use cases e.g. on-demand medical supplies directly to hospitals and health centres.

SATE will also look at how to implement zero-carbon airport infrastructure using green energy sources, as well as digital networking and the development of resilient communications. The socio-economic impact of new technologies and services in the region, and the skills and training needed to support them, will be assessed.

SATE provides the blueprint for net zero regional aviation, placing the UK at the forefront of the transition to low carbon aviation. The project will provide an important step towards delivering HIAL’s ambitions to decarbonise operations by 2040.

Why Kirkwall Airport in Orkney?

As an exemplar early-adopter of other low-carbon technologies, Orkney is an ideal ‘living laboratory’ for testing aviation and aerospace technology. Kirkwall Airport is well suited as a test environment location due to the variety of short routes it offers acting as a hub connecting Orkney’s island communities through its inter-island flight service.

SATE project consortium:

Led by HIAL, the SATE project brings together a consortium of aviation industry specialists, local Orkney and Caithness businesses, public sector bodies and academia:
SATE consourtium logos grouped 640

Technology partners

To find out more about the SATE technology partners and the aviation technologies to be demonstrated, click on the links below;

Ampaire (electric powered aircraft)
Flarebright (drone)
Loganair (Sustainable Aviation Fuels)
Windracers (UAV)
ZeroAvia (hydrogen-electric aircraft)

EMEC’s role

During the project, EMEC will support Kirkwall airport infrastructure development with ground support equipment for the flight trials and will investigate the future energy infrastructure requirements for the airport. As a test site, EMEC provides a template for the type of activity and the business model of the project proposed within SATE and EMEC will investigate viable long-term business models for a sustainable aviation test centre.

Project news:


The project was awarded £3.7 million  from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund as part of the Future Flight Challenge

UKRI logo 2021 640









Aquamarine Power


Atlantis Resources Corporation



Naval Group

Naval Group


Open Hydro


Orbital Marine




ScottishPower Renewables



Sustainable Marine Energy

Sustainable Marine Energy


Voith Hydro


Wello Oy

Supported by: