ZeroAvia to move hydrogen aircraft flight testing forward with Dornier 228s


Regional hydrogen-aircraft developer ZeroAvia has acquired two 19-seat Dornier aircraft for the next phase of its flight testing program.

One of the Dornier 228s will be based at its testing site in Kemble, UK and the other at its Hollister location in California, USA.

The company, which is developing a demonstrator hydrogen aircraft as part of the UK Government-backed HyFlyer II project, was using a Piper Malibu Mirage modified with a hydrogen tank, fuel cell and electrical systems. That test aircraft first flew at Cranfield, UK in June 2020 and then crashed earlier this year.

The six-seater Malibu used a 250kW powerplant across three flight test campaigns and achieved its technical goals, including fuel-cell only cruise flight, ZeroAvia said.

For the next phase of the development program, the newly-acquired 19-seat Dornier 228’s will be fitted with two 600KW hydrogen-electric powertrains to replace the aircraft’s twin engines.

Hydrogen fuel tanks that will “eventually” hold 100kg (220lbs) of compressed gaseous hydrogen will be fitted to facilitate the 6-ton aircraft’s targeted 500 mile (800km) range.

Engineers at ZeroAvia will also develop and test the software, hardware, mechanical integration, and fuel cell balance-of-plant to a certifiable state.

ZeroAvia aims to offer a 19-seat hydrogen-electric aircraft for delivery to customers in 2024.

The company has also raised an additional US$13 million of funding from private investors to help fund work targeting the development of a subsequent 50-seat 2MW hydrogen-electric aircraft. This follows a US$24 million funding round in May, which brings the level of total private investment in the company to US$37 million.

Val Miftakhov, founder and CEO at ZeroAvia said, “We are eager and ready to begin testing our hydrogen-electric powertrain technology on a larger commercial-size aircraft and grateful to our investors and grant funders for their continued support of our vision for sustainable aviation.

“Various projections indicate that aviation may account for over 25% of human-induced climate effects by 2050. We are on the path to helping reverse that trend, first with our successful six-seater testing and now with the R&D for our 19-seater, and the kick-off of our 50+ seat program.

“Hydrogen is the only practical solution for true climate-neutral flight, and it will become a commercial reality much sooner than many predict.”

ZeroAvia’s 30,000 square foot facility in Kemble will act as the dedicated base for developing ZeroAvia’s 600kW aircraft. The team at the company’s Hollister, California location will assist the UK team with testing and will be responsible for building the second demonstration aircraft for commercialization of technology in North America.

ZeroAvia employs about 50 people and plans to expanding to over 100 in the next 12 months across both the US and UK.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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