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UK Aerospace Pioneer Aims to Lead in Hydrogen Aircraft

15 Sept 2023

Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS), a British aviation pioneer, is advancing toward its goal of having a hydrogen-electric-powered Britten Norman Islander aircraft in the skies by 2024.

Project Fresson Takes Flight

CAeS is making significant strides in its efforts to transform the nine-seater Islander into a commercially viable, hydrogen fuel-cell powered aircraft. The company's ultimate ambition is to become a leading manufacturer of low and zero-carbon sub-regional and regional aircraft.

Hydrogen's Energy Density Advantage

Hydrogen is a key player in decarbonizing aviation due to its threefold higher energy density compared to conventional aviation fuel. It produces zero CO2 emissions, making it an attractive option for the aviation industry.

Commercial Viability and Technical Expertise

CAeS is prioritizing commercial viability in its hydrogen aircraft development. The focus is on creating aircraft that cater to the current needs of the aviation market, combining technical expertise with real-world application.

The Islander's Unique Role

The Islander aircraft, with its ability to operate efficiently for short-haul flights of around 60 minutes, is an ideal candidate for hydrogen-electric conversion. CAeS aims to ensure that the aircraft retains a 60-minute flight time with a 45-minute reserve.

Demonstrator Aircraft for Success

CAeS's approach involves using a modified demonstrator airframe that closely resembles the final product. This approach is crucial for addressing the specific challenges that aircraft face in flight and ensuring the project's success.

In the Skies by 2024

The current timeline targets the first flight of the converted Islander by the end of 2024. CAeS is taking a unique approach by using both conventional technology and new hydrogen fuel cell systems to ensure safety and optimal performance.

Partnership for Thermal Management

CAeS has partnered with Reaction Engines to address thermal management challenges within the confined space of the aircraft nacelle. Reaction Engines' heat exchanger technology plays a vital role in creating a lightweight and low-drag solution.

Gaseous Hydrogen Choice

CAeS has opted for gaseous hydrogen instead of liquid hydrogen due to its lower range potential but greater accessibility and cost-effectiveness, making it suitable for small airfields.

Merger and Fundraising

A merger between Britten-Norman and CAeS is in the works, with a decision expected in September. CAeS is also actively seeking investors to raise £30 million for its hydrogen-electric aircraft program.

Scaling Up in the Future

While CAeS initially planned to scale up to larger regional aircraft, it is now exploring adjacent markets and aircraft of similar sizes to the Islander. This approach allows time for ground-based hydrogen infrastructure to develop.

Becoming Hydrogen Experts

CAeS aims to become a leading authority in hydrogen fuel cell-propelled aircraft, positioning itself at the forefront of maintenance processes for hydrogen-powered planes.

As CAeS works toward its hydrogen aircraft ambitions, it represents a significant step forward in the aviation industry's efforts to embrace sustainable and zero-emission technologies.

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