Innovative hover craft unveiled
Hydrogen fuel cells power vehicle that could take to the skies from early 2021
Developers of a multi-rotor hover craft billed as the first flying vehicle to be powered by hydrogen fuel cells unveiled a fullscale model in Southern California this week, in a show-andtell that raised some eyebrows but never left the ground.
A mockup of the futuristic aircraft, dubbed “Skai” by its inventors, was put on exhibit for investors, the news media and invited guests outside the BMW Group’s Designworks studio in Newbury Park, north of Los Angeles. Engineering and avionics for the drone-like vehicle were developed by Alaka’i Technologies, a privately held company based in Massachusetts but named for a tropical forest in Hawaii ranked as one of the wettest spots on Earth. The BMW unit contributed to the craft’s design.
While several car makers have struggled to bring hydrogen fuel cell technology into the automotive mainstream, Alaka’i describes its invention as the “world’s first hydrogen fuel cellpowered air mobility solution”.
The mock-up displayed, about the size of a minivan, resembles a sleek, five-seat SUV with landing skids and an array of six horizontal rotors attached at the end of arms protruding from the roof of the craft. It was all for looks.
The display model is a replica of the company’s only full-size operational prototype, which is expected to begin remote-controlled test flights soon at the firm’s Massachusetts lab, said CEO Steve Hanvey.
He told reporters that assembly was completed weeks ago and that initial Federal Aviation Administration certification is pending.
Hanvey said he expects to win FAA certification for initial production vehicles by the end of next year, and to make its first aircraft available for sale in early 2021, before ramping up production.