This website uses cookies
More information
Navigate directly to favourite company, aircraft and sector pages with our tracker feature.
Adapted Piper makes UK's first commercial-scale electric flight
Monday, 29 June 2020
Government-backed Project HyFlyer has taken a major step forward. ZeroAvia has flown a Piper M-class aircraft driven by its hydrogen powertrain for the first time, and is now planning a longer trip to Orkney.

ZeroAvia has conducted the first ever electric-powered flight of a commercial-scale aircraft carried out in the UK, using a new version of its powertrain from its base at Cranfield Airport.

The company is focused on developing a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. It says that 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. Additionally, hydrogen-electric powertrain is projected to have lower operating costs due to the high cost of battery cycling in typical high-utilization regional aircraft. Longer-distance hydrogen-electric test flights are planned for later this summer.

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.

In spite of the challenges presented by the lockdown, and thanks to the support by the Airport's Operations team, Cranfield University, and Cranfield Aerospace, the HyFlyer project reports making "big strides" in progressing the programme with minimal delays. A hydrogen refuelling infrastructure has recently been commissioned, and ZeroAvia has completed a full set of ground-based full-power flight simulations for its long-distance hydrogen flights.

"Today's flight is the latest in a series of milestones that moves the possibility of zero emission flight closer to reality," says Val Miftakhov, ZeroAvia Founder and CEO. "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."

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-led Aerospace R&T programme, Project HyFlyer aims to decarbonise 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," says Dr Simon Weeks, Chief Technology Officer, ATI. "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."

Project HyFlyer will culminate in a UK-based 250-300 nautical mile 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 is supporting the development of the infrastructure needed to fuel the aircraft with green hydrogen, at Cranfield and on Orkney. Market leading fuel cell engineering company Intelligent Energy is optimising its proprietary high-power evaporatively cooled fuel cell technology for aviation use cases.

Contact details from our directory:
ZeroAvia, Inc Airborne Electrical Power Supplies, Electric Power Controllers, Fuel Cells
Cranfield Aerospace Solutions Ltd Airborne Electrical Power Supplies, Certification Services, Fabricating Services, Flight Management Systems, Research/Consulting Services, Testing Services
Cranfield University Aerospace Academic Institutions, Accident Investigation, Design Services, Human Factors Engineering, Logistics Consultants, Management Studies, Marketing Consultants, Project Management, Reliability & Maintainability Services, Research/Consulting Services, Systems Analysis, Welding
ATI Aerospace Technology Institute Research/Consulting Services, Technical/Eng/Scientific Studies
Intelligent Energy Ltd Fuel Cells
Related aircraft programs:
Piper M500/M600
Related directory sectors:
Electrical Power Systems
Electrical Components