Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS), the UK SME leading the Project Fresson consortium, has announced that it will exploit recent advances in hydrogen fuel cell technology to develop a commercially viable, retrofit powertrain solution for the nine-passenger Britten-Norman Islander aircraft. Following a rigorous assessment of hydrogen technology innovators, CAeS has welcomed Ricardo UK and Innovatus Technologies to the Fresson consortium. Ricardo brings expertise in fuel cell system development and Innovatus brings its Scottish Hydrogen Fuel Tank (SHyFT) technology.
“We are proud to join the Cranfield Aerospace Solutions consortium to play our part in helping to reduce the carbon footprint for commercial air passengers,” says Steve Dyke, MD of the Ricardo automotive and industrial EMEA division. “We are already working on hydrogen and fuel cell technology, providing clean efficient solutions that reduce carbon and noxious emissions across a wide range of sectors. Our work for the Fresson consortium will enable us to consolidate and grow our hydrogen fuel cell and propulsion capability, so that we can achieve our ambition of becoming a world-leader in hydrogen and fuel cell services and solutions and help accelerate net zero transportation.”
Innovatus offers next generation ultra lightweight hydrogen tank design by exploiting patented cellular core composite techniques. This is critical to the successful integration and exploitation of hydrogen fuel cell power systems in applications across aerospace, automotive, industrial and marine sectors.
“We are proud in being selected to join the Cranfield Aerospace Solutions Project Fresson consortium,” states Innovatus CEO Ruan Swart. “Our unique and innovative SHyFT solution is game-changing in bringing zero carbon fuel cell energy to commercial reality in the transport sector. Project Fresson showcases important Scottish innovation and next generation hydrogen tank manufacturing in the UK.”
Project Fresson will deliver an emissions free (zero CO2) hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered flying demonstrator by September 2022. Having completed a comprehensive evaluation of technologies and configurations for sustainable aircraft propulsion, the Fresson team concluded that hydrogen fuel cell technology is the optimum solution to meet environmental, regulatory and operational requirements for this size of aircraft, enabling zero carbon emissions and reducing operating costs. This has presented the Fresson consortium, which includes Britten Norman and Cranfield University, with an opportunity to deliver an enhanced technology programme that surpasses the original demonstrator concept.
“This is incredibly important for the Project Fresson Team but also for everyone else around the world interested in zero emissions flight,” says CAeS CEO Paul Hutton. “This project can deliver the world's first truly green passenger carrying airline services. The whole team is proud of what Project Fresson has achieved so far and is excited about what is to come. I am very thankful for the support of the ATI and our investors for making this groundbreaking work a reality.”
CAeS chief strategy officer Jenny Kavanagh adds: “COVID-19 has caused the biggest crisis in aviation's history. It's important that, as the sector builds back better, it does so with sustainability at its heart. Project Fresson is more than just a technology demonstrator; it has one focus above all others: real operational and commercial viability.”
Project Fresson is supported by the ATI programme, a joint UK government and industry investment to maintain and grow the UK's competitive position in civil aerospace design and manufacture. The programme, delivered through a partnership between the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK, addresses technology, capability and supply chain challenges.
As a result of these changes, there is now no longer a need for the Rolls-Royce element of the aircraft programme. It is therefore Rolls-Royce's intention to withdraw from Project Fresson, and the consortium is going through the necessary steps for this to happen. Rolls-Royce will continue to actively research the use of hydrogen in aviation, and this decision in no way reflects its overall view of hydrogen as a potential technology.