ZeroAvia HyFlyer Makes First Flight in the UK

The hydrogen-powered Piper M-class airplane flew before in California.

zeroavia
The proposed system incorporates hydrogen fuel cells and delivery to electric motors in place of a conventional power train.ZeroAvia

ZeroAvia—the start-up company pursuing the goal of regionally optimized hydrogen-cell-powered airplanes—saw the first flight in the UK on June 22 of the Piper M-class airplane it had moved to Europe late in 2019. The move from Hollister, California, to Cranfield, England, followed the awarding of a grant from the UK government to pursue sustainable, zero-emission aviation solutions.

The test of the commercial-scale aircraft utilized the newly updated powertrain for the flight at the Cranfield Airport. The flight came after a series of ground-based “flight simulations” at the airport, meant to mimic the long-distance hydrogen-powered flights necessary for the company’s goal of regional commercial operations to be achieved, according to a company press release. The current version of the airplane uses a conventional powerplant—the tests are intended to prove out the fuel system—and future aircraft will see that engine replaced with electric motors, hydrogen fuel cells, and gas storage.

“Today’s flight is the latest in a series of milestones that moves the possibility of zero emission flight closer to reality,” said Val Miftakhov, ZeroAvia’s founder and CEO. “We all want the aviation industry to come back after the pandemic on a firm footing to be able to move to a net zero future, with a green recovery. That will not be possible without realistic, commercial options for zero emission flight, something we will bring to market as early as 2023.”

The infrastructure for delivering hydrogen fuel at relevant airports is another critical facet of ZeroAvia’s solution. To this end, they have recently commissioned the development of these facilities, in the near term at Cranfield and on the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The UK portion of the project is planned to culminate in a 250 to 300 nm flight from the Orkney Islands. An up-to-500-nm flight is targeted for the program’s final result.

“The ATI (Aerospace Technology Institute) is delighted to see the first flight of ZeroAvia’s battery-electric aircraft at Cranfield,” said Dr Simon Weeks, chief technology officer, ATI. “This exciting ATI funded project is the next step in an effort to develop a commercial zero emissions hydrogen fuel cell powered commercial aircraft in the UK.”

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