November 23, 2022
H3 Dynamics has announced its aircraft with distributed hydrogen propulsion nacelles has taken flight for the very first time in France.
In November 2021, the company completed its first working hydrogen propulsion nacelle prototype. Earlier this year in July, the first distributed pod system took to the skies on a scaled-down aircraft at Hub Drones – Systematic airfield near Paris. H3 said the hydrogen flight received clearance from French civil air authorities (DCAG).
The self-contained nacelle approach addresses technical, safety and cost challenges that hydrogen aircraft developers could face in the future, H3 said. It achieves this by placing hydrogen and smaller fuel cells across a series of collaborative propulsion nacelles under the wings. H3 said the global thrust nacelle market could reach $7 billion by 2030.
The company said other higher visibility aircraft companies will fly larger size aircraft much sooner, but they will do this by converting existing aircraft using fuel cells source from the automotive world – and storing large amounts of gas or liquid hydrogen inside the main fuselage.
“Not only is safety our first priority, but we don’t want hydrogen competing for revenue-generating air freight and passenger space,” said Taras Wankewycz, founder and CEO of H3 Dynamics. “Distributing small systems solves technical headaches, such as thermal management, and increases safety through multiple redundancy.”
The company’s 25kg test aircraft has an electric flight range of up to 900 km on liquid hydrogen, or 350 km with pressurized hydrogen. Its externalized nacelle design also frees up 30L of fuselage volume with no hydrogen nor any powertrain elements inside, the company said. The H3 hydrogen propulsion nacelles could potentially become a snap-on retrofit for battery-powered unmanned eVTOL or fixed-wing cargo drones.
H3 said it has started to work on airspace safety with air traffic control companies to prepare for the arrival of much longer duration unmanned hydrogen flights. The company has also been gaining experience with high-volume enterprise data services being deployed in smart cities such as Singapore, and gradually coupling these with drone-agnostic charging stations. By addressing the lower-end boundary of regulatory and certification efforts, the company said it doesn’t need to wait until 2035 to begin its commercial journey. “We all need to learn today with small commercial applications and gradually increase aircraft size over time together with all stakeholders – most importantly, the regulators,” said Wankewycz.
For more details on the company and its technology, visit the H3 Dynamics website here.