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The Largest Ever Hydrogen Plane Takes Flight

ZeroAvia, the leader in reducing carbon emissions in commercial aviation, flew the first commercial-grade plane powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. 

The six-seat Piper M-class plane took off, passed a full pattern circle, and landed yesterday at the company’s research and development site in Cranfield, England.

The success of company is an essential first step toward realizing how much switching from fossil fuels to zero-emission hydrogen as the primary energy source for commercial aviation could change things for the better. 

In the future, planes powered by hydrogen will be able to travel as far and carry as much weight as planes powered by fossil fuels, and it won’t require any new fundamental scientific discoveries.

ZeroAvia & HyFlyer Role:

ZeroAvia was the first company to try to make 10 to 20 seat aircraft that could fly 500 miles and be used for commercial passenger transport, package delivery, agriculture, and other things. 

The company is now working on aviation solutions that use hydrogen-electric power

It has offices in London and California, also plans to start commercial operations in 2023.

Also once its two prototype planes have been given experimental certificates and important flight test milestones have been met.

They lead organization for the project, along with Intelligent Energy and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).

Image courtesy of welcomemagsnoho.com

In the HyFlyer project they wants to reduce carbon emissions from small passenger planes with a medium range.

To show how new powertrain technologies can replace traditional piston engines in propeller planes.

They will use a Piper M-class aircraft that will do early test flights out of Cranfield.

It end with a 250–300 nautical mile (NM) demonstration flight out of an airport in Orkney to show how to switch from battery power to hydrogen power in a gradual way.

The first commercial-scale battery-electric flight in the UK, done in the same plane in June, is a big step toward commercial zero-emission flying. 

It is part of the HyFlyer project, a UK government-funded research and development program with efforts.

Before the end of the year, ZeroAvia will focus on the last and most challenging part of its six-seat development program: a 250-mile flight from an airport in Orkney that doesn’t release any pollution. 

This range looks like busy roads like those from London to Edinburgh or Los Angeles to San Francisco.

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Dornier 228 aircraft:

ZeroAvia has put a prototype hydrogen-electric powertrain on a Dornier 228 aircraft.

The company can now start to test its 600kW hydrogen-electric powertrain in the air.

As an engineering testbed, it’s hydrogen-electric engine, which powers the propeller on the left wing, has been added to the 19-seat twin-engine aircraft.

It works with the single Honeywell TPE-331 stock engine on the right as a backup in case something goes wrong.

Company says that when test flights start in January, the Dornier 228 testbed will make history as “the largest airplane to fly using a hydrogen-electric powertrain.”

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

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Recent Efforts:

Most efforts to cut emissions are focused on increasing the amount of fuel from sustainable sources even though sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) still needs improvement and is more expensive.

Flying in hydrogen-powered planes is one way to get to zero carbon emissions, as long as the hydrogen is made through electrolysis powered by a renewable source instead of being mined from fossil fuels. 

Currently, only about 1% of the hydrogen produced globally is carbon-free.

ZeroAvia said it worked with the CAA to meet a more demanding set of standards for this testing program than it did for its 6-seat prototype in 2020.

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Future Goals:

We’ll get 2023 off to a good start by showing that commercial flights with no emissions are much closer than most people think.

By the end of 2023, it will pave the way for the ZA600, a hydrogen powertrain that can be sold.

Carbon emissions are notoriously hard to cut in the aviation industry, and many scientists and environmentalists say that if we want to have net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, we need to cut down on travel. 

ZeroAvia says that by 2025, the first commercial routes for planes with 9 to 19 seats that are only powered by hydrogen could begin.

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