Hydrogen fuel cell provider HES Energy Systems has been developing hydrogen propulsion systems for small unmanned aircraft for 12 years. Now the company has announced plans to develop a regional hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft, Element One. HES aims to release a flying prototype before 2025.
The aircraft is designed to carry four passengers, and will have a range of between 500 and 5,000 km, depending on whether hydrogen is stored in gaseous or liquid form. Element One combines HES’s hydrogen fuel cell technologies with a distributed electric aircraft propulsion design. Modeled on its current drone-scale systems, HES’s distributed system is designed to allow for modularity and increased safety through multiple system redundancies.
HES says that refueling Element One will take no more than 10 minutes using an automated nacelle swap system.
HES partnered with Wingly, a French startup that provides flight sharing services for decentralized and regional air travel, to increase accessibility to remote and rural areas with Element One. “We analyzed millions of destination searches by pilots and passengers”, said Emeric de Waziers, CEO of Wingly. “By combining Element One, Wingly and existing airfields, we can change the paradigm.”
Electric propulsion has the potential to open up currently underused airfields to commercial traffic, as otther e-aircraft manufacturers, including Zunum, have also noted.
“France alone offers a network of more than 450 airfields, but only 10 percent are connected by regular airlines,” said de Waziers. “We will connect the remaining 90%.”
Source: HES Energy Systems