The Royal Air Force has successfully flown a four-metre drone with synthetic fuel, marking a milestone in the international collaboration between UK and US for alternative fuel.
The work was done under Project Vermeer and this flight marks a groundbreaking advancement in their work to develop synthetic kerosene: an entirely fossil fuel-free aviation fuel.
It is made by mixing raw materials with high sugar levels, such as food waste, with bacteria to create an oil substance that is then converted into aviation fuel using chemicals and heat.
Not only is synthetic kerosene entirely fossil fuel-free, it also doesn’t require large infrastructure to create, and the fact it can be made anywhere only adds to the military interest in its development.
Sustainability has been a commitment of the RAF and this development solidifies that promise to invest in a sustainable future, as the significantly reduced carbon footprint of synthetic kerosene can be used across all platforms from remotely piloted air systems to fighter jets.
“This is an exciting moment for the RAF and British industry as they continue to develop pioneering solutions to help address climate change. These new approaches will maintain our world-class fighting forces whilst reducing our carbon footprint.”
Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin
“The RAF needs to ensure that we are at the forefront of technology to safeguard our own resilience and operational capability, whilst minimising our damage to the environment. Fuel scarcity and cost will only ever increase in its impact on our operations and synthetic fuels for our aircraft are one potential solution to this situation as we look to secure the objectives of the next generation RAF of tomorrow.”
Air Vice Marshal Lincoln Taylor
Valuable data has been provided that shows the synthetic fuel performs to a high standard, following the creation of 15 litre of fuel in laboratory conditions and subsequent engine and flight testing, a ground-breaking discovery for British company C3 Biotechnologies and the US Navy.
“It is exciting and game-changing to work with our allies in the UK to develop a more efficient synthetic aviation fuel.
“The U.S. Navy is committed to finding innovative solutions to operational challenges, and the ability to manufacture this fuel without large infrastructure requirements would be ground-breaking for deployed forces.”
Chief of US Naval Research Rear Adm Lorin C. Selby
The testing isn’t over for the fossil fuel-free fuel, however, as the RAF and partners move on to the next phase of the project which will be to refine the process and develop deployable manufacturing facilities.
We can’t forget though that the real big win for the RAF was their title of Guinness World Record holder following a successful flight on synthetic fuel, won only 4 months ago.
Project Vermeer followed the Integrated Review and Defence command paper and since summer 2021 Project Vermeer has continued to demonstrate the RAF’s ongoing commitment to invest in emerging technology and sustainability.