Piasecki Aircraft, HyPoint to develop world’s first hydrogen-powered helicopter

Both partners will expand the emerging eVTOL market by delivering a certified multiplatform solution for eVTOL makers.

HyPoint, (an urban air mobility hydrogen fuel cell systems company) will collaborate with Piasecki Aircraft Corporation (PiAC) (a specialist in design, fabrication and flight testing of experimental rotorcraft and UAV) for the development and certification of a hydrogen fuel cell system for electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle applications.

Under the new multi-phase partnership, both partners will accelerate global availability of hydrogen-powered eVTOLs, aiming to deliver a customisable, FAA-certified, zero carbon-emission hydrogen fuel cell system to the global eVTOL market.

The initial US$ 6.5 million will be used to develop five 650 kW hydrogen fuel cell systems for use in Piasecki’s eVTOL PA-890 Compound Helicopter, which is expected to be the world’s first manned hydrogen-powered helicopter. It would be powered by the HyPoint turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell system.

The system will offer eVTOL makers four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries, which would be twice the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel cell systems. This will also halve direct operating costs relative to turbine-powered rotorcraft. The system uses compressed air for both cooling and oxygen supply to deliver a hydrogen fuel cell system.

Piasecki will have an exclusive license to the technology as a part of the partnership, while HyPoint will maintain ownership of its underlying hydrogen fuel cell technology. The new system will be available for customisation for clients, or eVTOL makers can also partner with HyPoint and Piasecki to develop a new system based on their specific needs.

HyPoint’s fuel cell system will achieve around 2,000 watts/kg of specific power, which is more than triple the power-to-weight ratio of traditional (liquid-cooled) hydrogen fuel cell systems. It will also boost up to 1,500 watt-hours/kg of energy density, enabling longer-distance journeys.

The global eVTOL market size is set to grow in size. In early 2021 around $5 billion of investments were announced in the sector to Archer Aviation, Eve, Joby Aviation, Lilium, and Vertical Aerospace. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was also engaged with manufacturers of more than 15 eVTOL aircraft in early 2020.

Companies such as EHang, Volocopter, Joby Aviation, and Lilium plan to launch commercial passenger operations within the next 3-5 years.

Piasecki is currently working with the FAA to outline certification criteria and the US Air Force by way of its Afwerx Sttr/Sbir program, which is co-investing in the development of advanced hydrogen-powered aeronautical technology.

Dr Alex Ivanenko, founder and CEO of HyPoint, said, “This new strategic partnership will dramatically accelerate delivery timelines by equipping eVTOL manufacturers with next-generation hydrogen fuel cell systems that meet their unique needs.”

John Piasecki, President and CEO of Piasecki, added, “Our objective is to develop full-scale systems within two years to support on-aircraft certification testing in 2024 and fulfill existing customer orders for up to 325 units starting in 2025.”

Shahkar Ali

Shahkar is the regional representative for Asia covering the hydrogen industry for H2 Bulletin. Please click on the email icon to contact him directly via email or follow him on social media.
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