ZeroAvia, an innovator in decarbonising commercial aviation, has received a US$3.3 million grant from the UK government to support the development of the principal technology to enable practical, zero emission aviation in commercial aircraft.
The UK government grant is part of the ATI programme, supported by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK, and will fund ZeroAvia's HyFlyetr project to demonstrate principal technology readiness for a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. The government's grant is matched by Project HyFlyer participants, making the scope of the project in excess of US$6.2 million.
The project will culminate in a UK-based 250-300 nm flight on a six seater Piper M, which is a zero emission combination of range and payload uniquely enabled by ZeroAvia's hydrogen powertrain. The HyFlyer project is a key step on ZeroAvia's journey towards supplying to commercial operators and aircraft manufacturers in 2022, 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.
According to the Air Transport Action Group, aviation is responsible for 12 per cent of CO2 emissions from all transport sources and is one of the fastest growing sources of global emissions. ZeroAvia's mission is fully in step with the clean growth 'grand challenge' within the UK's industrial strategy.
ZeroAvia's HyFlyer project also links closely to the five foundations of the UK government's wider industrial strategy. It represents the kind of ideas befitting one of the world's most innovative economies; has attracted a Silicon Valley company to set up a significant portion of its business in Britain's friendly business environment; promises jobs and improved infrastructure; and potentially boosts regional economies across the UK.
“The substantial backing provided by the UK government underlines the potential that hydrogen holds as a fuel source for commercial aviation, and provides significant validation of ZeroAvia's approach to zero emission flight,” says founder and CEO Val Miftakhov. “Our project goal of 300 nm is equivalent to the distance from London to Edinburgh and will prove that zero emission aviation, powered by hydrogen, can play a key role within the transport strategies of the UK and other countries, enabling net zero targets to be met and improving productivity and regional prosperity.”
“This exciting project, delivered with GBP2.7 million of government support, further strengthens the UK's reputation as a global leader in aviation innovation,” concludes Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy parliamentary under secretary of state (minister for business and industry)Nadhim Zahawi MP. “We are leading the world in tackling climate change, going further and faster by becoming the first major economy to pass new laws for net zero emissions by 2050. The development of a practical alternative to fossil fuels within aviation has the potential to revolutionise domestic travel not just in the UK, but globally. I am looking forward to watching our businesses drive the development of this technology forward.”
To launch Project HyFlyer, ZeroAvia will open UK operations in Cranfield, where it benefits from close proximity to key partners with which it has already built a working relationship over the past year. The company will build links to the UK's rich expertise in aerospace and clean technologies as it works through this project to decarbonise aviation through partnerships with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), Intelligent Energy and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS).
EMEC will investigate the infrastructure needed to fuel the aircraft with green hydrogen, initially on Orkney, with a view to replicating this infrastructure across other airports over time. EMEC produces green hydrogen from wind and tidal energy and is driving the development of a hydrogen economy on Orkney, decarbonising power, heat and transport.
Fuel cell engineering company Intelligent Energy will collaborate on the optimisation of its evaporative cooling fuel cell technology for aviation use cases.
CAeS, with its expertise in airframe integration and modification as well as whole aircraft design, will assist with integrating ZeroAvia's powertrain into the Piper airframe and host the ZeroAvia team at their hangar facilities.
ZeroAvia will also form a technology partnership with Cranfield University, one of the leading aerospace universities worldwide, to benefit from its unique talent pool and aerospace and powertrain legacy.
As well as these key partners, ZeroAvia has been working with advisory and investment firm Systemiq to accelerate business development and aid European expansion. As its strategic partner, Systemiq was instrumental in helping ZeroAvia to secure the grant and in getting the project off the ground.
ZeroAvia has already begun flight testing its powertrain prototype in a Piper M class airframe in California. The United States FAA issued an experimental R&D certificate to ZeroAvia's Piper M-Class R&D platform earlier this year. At a two ton takeoff weight and six seats in a business-class arrangement, it is currently the world's largest zero emission aircraft flying without any fossil fuel support, according to the publicly available information, and it has successfully completed a variety of test flights.
ZeroAvia is initially targeting 500 nm flights to serve the short haul and commuter air travel markets, which make up nearly half the commercial flights worldwide. Powered by ZeroAvia powertrains, smaller zero emission aircraft will be able to achieve similar per seat economics as today's large regional jets, allowing economical use of smaller local airports for point-to-point travel with virtually no security lines or delays, and a much more pleasant overall flying experience. In addition to passenger transport, the powertrain will have applications across cargo, air taxi and agriculture, as well as across manned and unmanned fixed wing, rotorcraft and everything in between.