World's first full-scale, commercially viable hydrogen-powered plane

World's first commercially viable hydrogen powered plane.

Aircrafts powered by Hydrogen: the world's first "commercially available" hydrogen-powered long-haul aircraft takes off over Great Britain in a big step towards zero emissions flights. The six-seater Piper M-Class aircraft has completed a 20-minute flight from Cranfield Airport in Bedfordshire.

The small airplane is powered by hydrogen fuel cells

The company that built the aircraft, ZeroAvia, received £2.7 million from state resources in September 2019. ZeroAvia will attempt the next attempt to fly the six-seater hydrogen powered aircraft 250 miles from the Orkney Islands. 

A commercially available full-size hydrogen-powered aircraft has completed a successful flight over the skies of Bedfordshire, a world premiere. 

Behind the first flight is the British company ZeroAvia, which hopes that commercial aviation will be emission free by 2023. 

The successful 20-minute flight included a cab, take-off, full circumnavigation and landing and will be followed this year by a 250-mile flight from the Orkney Islands.

The six-seater Piper M Class aircraft took off from Cranfield airport, where ZeroAvia's research and development facilities are located. 

The hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity to power a battery and an engine by mixing hydrogen and oxygen - which is supplied by air - through a chemical reaction.   

The only waste product of this process is water

unlike traditional aviation, which is one of the main responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. 

Previous research has shown that flying is responsible for about 3.5% of humanity's contribution to climate change.

While some experimental aircraft have flown with hydrogen fuel cells as an energy source, the size of this commercially available aircraft shows that paying passengers could soon embark on a truly emission-free flight.

The company's Hyflyer project received £2.7 million in government funding last year. 

  • Although the company claims that this flight was innovative, there are other examples of hydrogen powered aircraft.
  • Already in 2016, a plane called HY4, which can carry four people, completed a flight from Stuttgart airport in Germany, powered exclusively by hydrogen fuel cells.
  • HY4 was developed by researchers from the German Aerospace Center together with "partners from industry and research".
  • However, the unique feature of ZeroAvia flight is that Piper's M-Class is commercially available, while HY4 is not.

Is hydrogen the future of flight?

While the widespread use of hydrogen propulsion in airplanes is still very far away, the technology is already used in land transport, even if on a small scale. In the British capital London, for example, hydrogen buses have been introduced.

However, research does not show a great future for aircraft that transport energy in a battery. The battery is not suitable for flying aircraft of any size, except perhaps for special gliders.

Aircraft are an integral part of the travel industry. Millions of vacationers go on vacation every year to visit their favorite countries or to discover new destinations. It's not exactly environmentally friendly - that's why many scientists are researching how air travel can be made more sustainable.