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A plane fueled by hydrogen capable of bringing passengers to their designated destination completed its maiden flight this week. This “world-first” hydrogen-powered passenger plane is another step toward achieving a lower-to-zero emission flight.
On Thursday, the six-seater Piper M-class aircraft by ZeroAvia underwent a taxi, take-off, full pattern circuit, and landing. The passenger plane has been retrofitted with a unique device that combines oxygen and hydrogen power in producing electricity.
According to ZeroAvia, the trip, which they referred to as “hydrogen fuel-cell power flight of a commercial-grade aircraft,” is one of the first of its kind in the world. However, hydrogen-fuel cell planes that can host passengers also exist, but ZeroAvia coined it as the first commercial-grade passenger plane.
In 2016, the HY4 aircraft that carried four people in a flight undertook its first official flight from Stuttgart Airport in Germany. The HY4 was carefully designed by the German Aerospace Center researchers alongside research and industry partners.
ZeroAvia’s flight last Thursday was conducted at Cranfield Airport, England, the company’s research and development site and owned by Cranfield University. The hydrogen-powered passenger plane flew 50 miles north of London.
According to the CEO of ZeroAvia, Val Miftakhov, in a statement, the size of this commercially available aircraft is not like the other experimental aircraft that has flown using hydrogen-fuel cells. Passengers can enjoy boarding a truly zero-emission flight.
ZeroAvia is also leading up a project called the “HyFlyer,” together with project partners European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) and Intelligent Energy.
EMEC describes the HyFlyer project, backed by the U.K. government, as a project aiming to decarbonize medium range small passenger aircraft by utilizing powertrain technology to replace the traditional piston engines used in propeller aircraft.
The next move of the HyFlyer project is looking into ZeroAvia working toward conducting a flight between 250 to 300 nautical miles from the Orkney Islands, an archipelago found in waters off the north coast of Scotland. The passenger plane will utilize hydrogen-fuel cells. It is anticipated that this trip will happen before the end of this year.
While the widespread use of hydrogen power in aeronautics is still in development, land-based forms of hydrogen-powered modes of transportation are already in use, although on a small scale. In the U.K., hydrogen buses have been introduced in the metro. Moreover, Alstom¸ a European firm, has developed a train that exploits fuel-cell technology to transform hydrogen and oxygen into electricity.