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HyFlyer to test zero-emission aircraft from Orkney

By Staff Reporter

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ZeroAvia’s Piper M-class six-seater aircraft to be used in HyFlyer flight tests. Picture: ZeroAvia
ZeroAvia’s Piper M-class six-seater aircraft to be used in HyFlyer flight tests. Picture: ZeroAvia

Zero-emission flight tests are set to take place in Orkney after more than £5 million was awarded to a hydrogen technology programme in the islands.

The HyFlyer project will focus on medium-range small passenger aircraft, replacing conventional piston engines with electric motors, hydrogen fuel cells and gas storage.

The £5.3 million scheme, funded by the UK government and project partners, will culminate with a zero-emission flight out of Orkney.

Led by ZeroAvia, developer of hydrogen fuel cell powertrain solutions, HyFlyer will demonstrate a phased approach from battery power to hydrogen power, integrating the new technology aboard a Piper M-class six-seater aircraft.

Project partners Intelligent Energy will optimise its high power fuel cell technology for application in aviation while EMEC Hydrogen, producers of green hydrogen from renewable energy, will supply the hydrogen required for flight tests and develop a mobile refuelling platform compatible with the plane.

ZeroAvia has already demonstrated its technology in flight tests in the US, and has recently set up an office in Cranfield in England to work closely with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) to integrate and certify the hydrogen powertrain technology and perform initial flight tests.

The project will culminate in a 250 to 300 nautical mile (NM) demonstration flight out of an airfield based in Orkney.

According to the Air Transport Action Group, aviation is responsible for 12 per cent of CO2 emissions from all transport sources and is one of the fastest growing sources of global emissions. HyFlyer presents significant opportunities to decarbonise aviation in Orkney since all flights from Kirkwall could potentially be serviced by this new technology.

Councillor James Stockan, leader of Orkney Islands Council, said: “In Orkney we are seeking to be clean, green islands. Transport is our biggest decarbonisation challenge, with our remote and rural setting placing our islanders in the position of producing a significant carbon footprint.

“Initiatives like this are presenting us with opportunities to reduce this carbon footprint and support Orkney Islands Council’s climate emergency declaration. I look forward to the project progressing.”

The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney is helping to harness green hydrogen from renewable resources.

Richard Ainsworth, hydrogen project specialist at EMEC Hydrogen, said: “HyFlyer is another key step in Orkney’s aim to decarbonise lifeline transport services for islanded communities. Hydrogen has the potential to help meet our emission commitments where electrons and batteries can’t. This project sees us one step closer to meeting our fuel and energy needs from abundant local renewable energy resources using green hydrogen.”

Val Miftakhov, founder and chief executive officer of ZeroAvia, said: “Our project goal of 300NM is equivalent to the distance from London to Edinburgh and will prove that zero-emission aviation, powered by hydrogen, can play a key role within the UK and other countries’ transport strategies – enabling net-zero targets to be met and improving productivity and regional prosperity.”

The UK government grant awarded to the HyFlyer project is part of the ATI programme, supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and Innovate UK. The government’s grant is matched by Project HyFlyer participants, making the scope of the project in excess of £5 million.

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