Zero-emis­sions hy­dro­gen-elec­tric pas­sen­ger air­craft

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - NEWS -

AF­TER 12 YEARS de­vel­op­ing hy­dro­gen propul­sion sys­tems for small un­manned air­craft, HES En­ergy Sys­tems has un­veiled plans for Ele­ment One, the world’s first re­gional hy­dro­gen-elec­tric pas­sen­ger air­craft.

De­signed as a zero-emis­sions air­craft, Ele­ment One merges HES’ ul­tra-light hy­dro­gen fuel cell tech­nolo­gies with a dis­trib­uted elec­tric air­craft propul­sion de­sign. With vir­tu­ally no change to its cur­rent drone-scale sys­tems, HES’ dis­trib­uted sys­tem al­lows for mod­u­lar­ity and in­creased safety through mul­ti­ple sys­tem re­dun­dan­cies.

Ele­ment One is de­signed to fly four pas­sen­gers for 500 km to 5000 km de­pend­ing on whether hy­dro­gen is stored in gaseous or liq­uid form. This per­for­mance is sev­eral or­ders of mag­ni­tude bet­ter than any bat­tery-elec­tric air­craft at­tempt so far, open­ing new aerial routes be­tween smaller towns and ru­ral areas us­ing an ex­ist­ing and dense net­work of smallscale air­ports and aero­dromes.

The prom­ise of hy­dro­gen-elec­tric power could shape the fu­ture of avi­a­tion, says Taras Wankewycz, founder of HES. “It’s now pos­si­ble to break past the en­durance lim­its of bat­tery-elec­tric flight us­ing HES’ ul­tra-light hy­dro­gen en­ergy stor­age in a dis­trib­uted propul­sion ar­range­ment. Ele­ment One’s de­sign paves the way for re­new­able hy­dro­gen as a lon­grange fuel for elec­tric avi­a­tion.”

Re­fu­elling Ele­ment One will take no more than 10 min­utes us­ing an au­to­mated na­celle swap sys­tem that ap­plies AGVs and au­to­mated ware­house op­er­a­tions such as those used by Ama­zon and Alibaba.

HES also plans to be­gin as­so­ci­at­ing on-site hy­dro­gen gen­er­a­tion with fuel cell pow­ered un­manned air­craft across a net­work of hy­dro­gen-ready air­ports, in prepa­ra­tion for larger-scale elec­tric air­craft such as Ele­ment One. The en­ergy com­pany is in dis­cus­sion with in­dus­trial-scale hy­dro­gen pro­duc­ers to ex­plore en­ergy-ef­fi­cient re­fu­elling sys­tems us­ing re­new­able so­lar or wind en­ergy pro­duced lo­cally.

In an ef­fort to ex­plore new busi­ness mod­els that help po­si­tion Ele­ment One into new travel seg­ments, HES has aligned its zero-car­bon avi­a­tion roadmap with Wingly, a French star-tup that of­fers flight shar­ing ser­vices for de­cen­tralised and re­gional air travel: “We an­a­lysed the mil­lions of des­ti­na­tion searches made by the com­mu­nity of 200,000 pi­lots and pas­sen­gers on our plat­form and con­firm there is a tremen­dous need for in­ter-re­gional trans­port be­tween sec­ondary ci­ties,” says Emeric de Waziers, CEO of Wingly. “By com­bin­ing au­tonomous emis­sion free air­craft such as Ele­ment One, dig­i­tal com­mu­nity-based plat­forms like Wingly and the ex­ist­ing high den­sity net­work of air­fields, we can change the paradigm. France alone of­fers a net­work of more than 450 air­fields but only 10 per­cent of th­ese are con­nected by reg­u­lar air­lines. We will sim­ply con­nect the re­main­ing 90 per­cent.”

Tar­get­ing a first fly­ing pro­to­type be­fore 2025, HES is in the process of build­ing a tech­ni­cal and com­mer­cial con­sor­tium in­volv­ing both the avi­a­tion and hy­dro­gen ecosys­tems.

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