The first hydrogen-powered planes are taking flight

Aug. 3, 2023
Aircraft retrofitted with hydrogen fuel cells could slash CO2 emissions from small planes — and potentially pave the way for hydrogen jets, new study shows, Maria Gallucci writes for Canary Media.

BASALT, Colo., - A potential solution to carbon-free flying is inching closer to reality. Since the start of this year, small planes equipped with hydrogen fuel cells have made their first test flights over the U.S. West Coast and the English countryside. The aviation startups ZeroAvia and Universal Hydrogen now claim their novel aircraft will be ready to start flying commercially as early as 2025, Maria Gallucci writes for Canary MediaContinue reading original article.

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

3 August 2023 - ZeroAvia's hydrogen-electric engine uses fuel cells to generate electricity from hydrogen fuel, before using that electricity to power electric motors which turn the aircraft propellers. The certifiable ZA2000 system will include ZeroAvia's High Temperature PEM fuel cells and liquid hydrogen fuel storage, integral to delivering the necessary energy density for commercial operations of large regional turboprops. The company has already established an engineering partnership with De Havilland of Toronto, the original manufacturer of the Dash 8 family of aircraft to enable exchange of data and expertise with the airframe.

Universal Hydrogen's powertrain is built around Plug Power’s ProGen family of fuel cells specially modified for aviation use. One of the unique aspects of the design is that the powertrain does not use a battery—the fuel cells drive the electric motor directly—drastically reducing weight and cost. The motor, a modified magni650 electric propulsion unit, and power electronics were supplied by Everett-based magniX. Seattle-based AeroTEC assisted with engineering efforts, including design of the modified nacelle structure, aircraft systems design and integration, as well as aircraft modifications and installation of the Universal Hydrogen powertrain onto the flight test aircraft, accomplished in less than 12 months.

Related: ZeroAvia to retrofit Alaska Airlines regional turboprop to hydrogen

Related: Successful test flight of hydrogen-powered plane gives sustainable aviation a lift

Related: FAA grants Universal Hydrogen experimental airworthiness certificate

Jamie Whitney, Senior Editor
Military + Aerospace Electronics

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