The Californian startup ZeroAvia claims to have completed the world’s first flight of a commercial-grade aircraft powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.
The converted Piper Malibu Mirage six-seat plane completed taxi, takeoff, a full pattern circuit, and landing at the company’s R&D facility in Cranfield university, England, on September 24, 2020.
“This major milestone on the road to commercial zero-emission flight is part of the HyFlyer project, a sequential R&D programme supported by the UK Government,” the company said in a press release.
The electric propulsion of ZeroAvia’s aircraft was tested on June 23, 2020, embarking a 300 kW battery system to power an electric motor mounted to replace the original thermal engine, a six-cylinder Lycoming 540-AE2A delivering 350 hp.
The next step for the startup will be a 250-mile (400-kilometer) flight from Orkney, in Scotland, to proof test the aircraft’s endurance. “The demonstration of this range is roughly equivalent to busy major routes such as Los Angeles to San Francisco or London to Edinburgh,” ZeroAvia states.
Hydrogen is considered as a possible solution for manufacturers to decarbonize aviation, as the only byproducts of that energy are water and heat. On September 21, 2020, Airbus presented three concepts of hydrogen-powered aircraft.