Ambitious team-ups are always exciting. Hydrogen fuel cell innovator HyPoint has teamed up with Piasecki Aircraft, and they are eyeing to create the world’s first manned hydrogen helicopter. But, that is not all; they are also planning an H2 system that can be integrated into any eVTOL aircraft, radically boosting its range capability.
HyPoint boasts proudly that its “turbo air-cooled” fuel cell system” will have the ability to achieve up to 2,000 watts per kilogram (2.2 lb) of specific power, which is way more in comparison to triple the power-to-weight ratio of traditional (liquid-cooled) hydrogen fuel cells systems. It will also boost up to 1,500 watt-hours per kilogram of energy density, enabling longer-distance journeys.”.
The lightweight fuel cell system has already cleared the preliminary tests of generating enough continuous power to handle the energy-hungry demands of vertical takeoff and landing without needing a heavy buffer battery.
As per the initial plans, Piasecki’s PA-890 electric compound helicopter will be integrated with the five 650-kW hydrogen fuel cell systems. Absolutely outrageous; we will have to see how it pans out. It also has an electric slowed-rotor five-seater with wide wings for efficient cruise and a tail rotor that tilts backwards in forwarding flight to become a pusher prop. However, not all the wings tilt 90 degrees upward to get out of the main rotor’s way on take-off and landing.
The existing FAA standards will be met, which was borne in mind while designing the PA-890. Certifications for the same are already being discussed with the FAA. The little hitch here is that hydrogen planes are yet to be certified for commercial use. Apart from this hitch, there are many others. The availability of landing spots, charging spots and how to pick up and drop off customers. A long-range, fast-fueling hydrogen system could be a game-changer in this scenario.
“We are laser-focused on the development and qualification of a 650-kW system for our PA-890 eVTOL Compound Helicopter, which would be the world’s first manned hydrogen-powered helicopter,” says John Piasecki, President and CEO of Piasecki Aircraft. “Success will pave the way for collaboration with other eVTOL OEMs with different platform sizes to ensure broad application of this technology.”
“Initial lab testing funded by Piasecki last winter demonstrated the technical viability of HyPoint’s hydrogen fuel cell system,” he continues. “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 fulfil existing customer orders for up to 325 units starting in 2025.”