NEXT GENERATION HYDROGEN FUEL CELL SYSTEMS FOR eVTOLs
The Piasecki PA-890 will be the first crewed helicopter to be powered by hydrogen..
California-based HyPoint (Menlo Park, Calif., U.S.), a company developing zero carbon-emission turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell systems for aviation and urban air mobility (UAM), has entered into a multi-phase $6.5 million collaborative development agreement with advanced rotorcraft and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) platforms and technologies company Piasecki Aircraft Corp. (PiAC, Essington, Penn., U.S.) for the development of a hydrogen fuel cell system for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle applications..
Hydrogen an emissions free fuel which is also considerably cheaper than the current fuels used within the aviation industry produces zero CO2 emissions and, depending on the technology used, can substantially reduce or even eliminate air pollutants.
The PA-890 eVTOL aircraft an all-electric-powered Slowed-Rotor Winged Compound helicopter features a large four-bladed main rotor, a variable incidence wing that rotates up to 90 degrees to minimize download for efficient hovering, and swiveling tail rotor that provides anti-toque and yaw control. As the PA-890 transitions to forward flight the wing rotates to a horizontal position providing lift to offload the rotor and the tail rotor swivels to provide efficient forward propulsion. With lift and thrust demands on the rotor relieved, the rotor RPM is slowed. The combined effect is a dramatic increase in efficiency and range while decreasing noise. The aircraft features seating for five and a large baggage compartment. The cabin size and layout allows multiple configurations for different missions.
HyPoint's revolutionary approach utilizes compressed air for both cooling and oxygen supply to deliver a hydrogen fuel cell system that radically outperforms existing battery and hydrogen fuel cell alternatives. Testing has shown that HyPoint's fuel cell system will be able to achieve up to 2,000 watts per kilogram of specific power, which is more than triple the power-to-weight ratio of traditional (liquid-cooled) hydrogen fuel cells systems. It will also boast up to 1,500 watt-hours per kilogram of energy density, enabling longer-distance journeys. In December 2020, HyPoint was named a winner of NASA's iTech Initiative, in which breakthrough technologies were ranked based on criteria that included technical viability, benefits to humanity, and commercialization potential. HyPoint's aviation applications — including eVTOL, UAS, personal air vehicles, and electric aircraft — were considered to be especially innovative.
The global eVTOL market size is forecasted to grow from an estimated $74 million in 2025 to $860 million by 2030, according to new market research. In the first few months of 2021 alone, $5 billion of investments were announced in the sector to Archer Aviation, Eve, Joby Aviation, Lilium, and Vertical Aerospace. In January 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it was engaged with manufacturers of more than 15 eVTOL aircraft. EHang, Volocopter, Joby Aviation, and Lilium are among those who have signaled their intent to launch commercial passenger operations within the next three to five years. Other players include major aircraft companies such as Airbus and Boeing. The global hydrogen aircraft market is anticipated to grow from an estimated $27 billion in 2030 to $174 billion by 2040, according to Allied Market Research.
Piasecki is currently working with the FAA to outline certification criteria, as well as with the United States Air Force, by way of its AFWERX STTR/SBIR program, which is co-investing in the development of advanced hydrogen-powered aeronautical technology.
"We are laser-focused on the development and qualification of a 650kW system for our PA-890 eVTOL Compound Helicopter, which would be the world's first manned hydrogen-powered helicopter. Success will pave the way for collaboration with other eVTOL OEMs with different platform sizes to ensure broad application of this technology," said John Piasecki, President and CEO of Piasecki. "Initial lab testing funded by Piasecki last winter demonstrated the technical viability of HyPoint's hydrogen fuel cell system. While we are benchmarking HyPoint's technology against alternatives and continue to rigorously test and validate findings, we are very optimistic. 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."
Piasecki’s say's the PA-890 aircraft will be the first crewed helicopter to be powered by hydrogen.