ZeroAvia has conducted the first ever electric-powered flight of a commercial-scale aircraft carried out in the UK.
The company completed the first flight of the new version of its powertrain from its base at Cranfield Airport.
ZeroAvia is focused on developing a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. Hydrogen-electric offers the same zero-emission potential of battery-electric, but has a much more promising energy-to-weight ratio, making it viable for commercial operations at a much larger scale and in a shorter time frame, the company explained.
Beyond HyFlyer, ZeroAvia plans commercially relevant, certified 10-20 seat configurations ready to go within three years, and 50-100 seat configurations in flight by the end of the decade. The company projects that aircraft over 200 seats with a range in excess of 3,000 nautical miles is achievable by 2040 without requiring any fundamental scientific breakthroughs.
“Today’s flight is the latest in a series of milestones that moves the possibility of zero emission flight closer to reality. 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.”Val Miftakhov, ZeroAvia founder and CEO.
ZeroAvia’s innovation programme in the UK is part of the UK Government-backed Project HyFlyer. Funded through Innovate UK and the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI)-led Aerospace R&T programme, project HyFlyer aims to decarbonize medium-range small passenger aircraft by demonstrating powertrain technology to replace conventional engines in propeller aircraft. The conventional powertrain in the aircraft will be replaced with electric motors, hydrogen fuel cells and gas storage.
“The ATI is delighted to see the first flight of ZeroAvia’s battery-electric aircraft at Cranfield. 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.”Dr Simon Weeks, chief technology officer, ATI.
Project HyFlyer will culminate in a UK-based 250-300 nautical mile (NM) flight from the Orkney Islands in Scotland. This project is a key step on ZeroAvia’s journey towards supplying to commercial operators and aircraft manufacturers in 2023, initially targeting up to 500-mile regional flights in 10 to 20-seat fixed-wing aircraft.
ZeroAvia’s solution aims to deliver the same performance as a conventional aircraft engine, but with zero carbon emissions and at around half of the operating costs.
As part of the project, ZeroAvia is partnering with some of the most innovative technology, advanced manufacturing, energy and aviation companies in the UK. The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) is supporting the development of the infrastructure needed to fuel the aircraft with green hydrogen, at Cranfield and on Orkney. Fuel cell engineering company Intelligent Energy is optimizing its proprietary high-power evaporatively cooled fuel cell technology for aviation use cases.