The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given Universal Hydrogen a special airworthiness certificate in the experimental category, allowing them to move on with the first flight of its hydrogen-powered regional aircraft.
The business also made available video of the aircraft’s successful first taxi tests, which were conducted to assess the aircraft’s ground handling capabilities and the fuel-cell electric powertrain’s performance at low power levels and airspeeds.
A hydrogen fuel cell powertrain of the megawatt class has been installed in one of the nacelles of the Dash 8-300 flying testbed. The powertrain closely mimics the design of the business’s first item, a conversion kit for ATR 72-600 regional jets that is anticipated to be certified and enter commercial passenger service in 2025. Notably, the powertrain of Universal Hydrogen does not make use of a hybrid battery architecture, which is a significant breakthrough. Instead, all of the power is transferred straight from the fuel cells to the electric motor, resulting in a significant reduction in weight and lifecycle costs.
The Dash 8-300 flying testbed will make its debut at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, thanks to the FAA’s approval. The aircraft will be by far the largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft to fly, and it will rank second only to the Soviet flight test of a Tupolev Tu-155 airliner with one of its jet engines altered to burn hydrogen in 1988 in terms of hydrogen-powered aircraft.
At its engineering facility in Toulouse, France, Universal Hydrogen presented the first operational tests of their modular hydrogen delivery system in December 2022. These tests showed that a modular capsule technology might be used to carry hydrogen to airports and onto aircraft in a practical, quick, and highly scalable manner. As a result, there is no need for expensive new infrastructure because every airport that can handle cargo is hydrogen-ready. Additionally, it eliminates transfer losses and greatly accelerates hydrogen fuelling processes, two major problems for the zero-emission fuel.