‘A commercially viable future for air travel’

THE drive to develop electric-powered aviation through Project Fresson started at the end of 2019 with a grant of £9m. from a programme run by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI).

Since then, a decision to move the focus away from lithium-ion batteries to hydrogen fuel cells has seen a number of changes, which include the departure from the consortium of Rolls-Royce.

Ricardo UK and Innovatus Technologies have been announced as new members of the Fresson consortium.

While Ricardo brings with it expertise in fuel cell system development, Innovatus has developed a lightweight hydrogen fuel tank technology.

Ricardo communications manager Kathryn Bellamy said the company was bringing its automotive expertise into the aerospace sector, focusing on how to integrate the technology effectively into aircraft as well as looking at cost-effective solutions.

Stuart McIntyre, business development manager at Innovatus, said it had the technology which overcame the challenge of storing hydrogen gas.

‘This creates the ability to carry enough hydrogen efficiently,’ he said.

Concept art showing how a hydrogen-fuelled Islander might look (29382810)

Cranfield Aerospace Solutions leads the Project Fresson consortium, and CEO Paul Hutton said that among the advantages of hydrogen fuel cells are that they are completely green, in that the only emission is water vapour.

They also lead to cost savings when compared to traditional aviation fuels: ‘From a whole range of angles, it would seem to be the right technology,’ he said.

Project Fresson’s chief strategy officer Jenny Kavanagh said the Covid-19 pandemic had led to the biggest crisis in aviation history, but it was important that the sector built back better and it needed to have sustainability at its heart.

‘Project Fresson is more than just a technology demonstrator.

‘It has one focus above all others – real operational and commercial viability.’

  • The ATI programme is a partnership of the Aerospace Technology Institute, the Department for Business, Energy & Industry Strategy, and Innovate UK. Its goal is to maintain and grow the UK’s competitive position in civil aerospace design and manufacture.

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