The UK government will provide 50% of the cost of a 30-month, £18 million ($23.3 million) demonstrator project to convert the nine-passenger Britten-Norman Islander to hybrid-electric propulsion for short-range flights such as inter-island routes.

The £9 million grant for Project Fresson has been provided by the ATI Program, a partnership between the Aerospace Technology Institute and the UK government departments responsible for energy, industry and innovation.

Project Fresson is led by Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS), which intends to hold and market the supplemental type certificate for the Islander modification kit. The UK industrial team includes Rolls-Royce (power management), Denis Ferranti Group (electric motors) and Delta Motorsport (battery pack).

Britten-Norman will provide the baseline aircraft, data and design support. The University of Warwick’s WMG manufacturing group will perform battery testing and characterization and CAeS parent Cranfield University will provide key technology research.

CAeS CEO Paul Hutton said the project will result in a demonstrator that can be developed rapidly into a certified modification kit, “enabling the UK to lead the way with the first passenger-carrying sub-regional aircraft capable of all-electric flight.”

Rolls said the project will enable it to “introduce a new concept in aircraft-level power distribution control that optimizes all the elements of the power and propulsion system.”

Following the demonstrator project, CAeS plans to obtain a European supplemental type certificate for the hybrid-electric modification, which it intends to market to the operators of more than 400 Islanders now in service worldwide on short routes.

In proposed later phases of the project, CAeS plans to develop a similar hybrid-electric modification for existing 19-passenger aircraft. Ultimately, the company wants to develop a new 19-seat sub-regional airliner optimized for emission-free propulsion.

Graham Warwick/Aviation Week warwick@aviationweek.com