AIR Hub gets funding to develop Australia’s first hydrogen-powered drone

The Australian Government’s Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships program has awarded Swinburne’s Aerostructures Innovation Research Hub (AIR Hub) a $1.3 million funding to develop and test Australia’s first hydrogen-powered drone.

In order to lead the commercial development of clean, zero-emission uncrewed air systems, the Hydrogen to the Skies (H22S) project will design and incorporate a new hydrogen propulsion system into a large-scale drone. This project will cooperate with Australian partners. Before the end of 2023, the first prototype is anticipated to be finished.

According to Dr. Adriano Di Pietro, director of the AIR Hub, the initiative will have a substantial impact on Australian business and might generate millions of dollars in revenue from technology exports by the early 2030s.

Because hydrogen propulsion considerably increases range and payload possibilities compared to pure battery electric propulsion systems, it is anticipated to represent a crucial turning point for modern air mobility in regional Australia.

In addition to enhancing rural and remote supply channels, clean and energy-efficient propulsion systems, like those developed by this project, are crucial for reaching Australia’s decarbonization ambitions.

The project will show how hydrogen propulsion may be used commercially, opening the door for the operational and legal changes required to better connect local communities.

The initiative ties Swinburne’s research strengths in aerospace, hydrogen, and sustainability to a fast-track technology that has the potential to enhance the lives of millions, according to Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Research Professor Karen Hapgood.

New technologies

The project is a continuation of AIR Hub’s groundbreaking work on Small Hydrogen Aircraft Development & Evolution (SHADE) and dedication to fusing industry, research, and education to address pressing issues and develop Australia’s upcoming engineers, scientists, and technicians in clean aviation.

To make Hydrogen to the Skies a reality, AIR Hub will collaborate with business partners, including Swinburne’s Victorian Hydrogen Hub (VH2) on environmentally friendly hydrogen production and storage.

The project is intended to serve as the initial stage of a strategic aviation program to position Australia as a pioneer and global leader in hydrogen propulsion and the regional application of the technology.

The project intends to further Australia’s objectives in new technology development, regulation, safety management, and compliance and is aligned with the National Emerging Aviation Technologies Policy and the National Hydrogen Strategy.