World’s-first hydrogen-powered aircraft takes flight in UK

25 Sep 2020

The first ever hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft, emitting just water vapour, has taken flight in the UK.

According to tech firm ZeroAvia, the objective is to make hydrogen planes commercially available within three years.

ZeroAvia founder and chief executive Val Miftakhov told Sky News: "What we're doing is replacing fossil fuel engines with what's called hydrogen electric engines.

"We also have a fuelling infrastructure set up that ensures zero emission production of hydrogen itself."

Although a prototype aircraft with this type of engine has flown previously, the company says this is the first time an aircraft that is commercially available has taken flight using hydrogen power.

Although ZeroAvia has stated a long, zero-emissions flight could be a reality by the end of the decade, current airport infrastructure is designed for traditional aircraft. 

As such, ground operations would need to be revamped to be able to cater to hydrogen aircraft.

David Gleave, aviation safety investigator and researcher at Loughborough University commented: "It's not just a question of putting hydrogen-based aeroplanes and getting them to work, we need the infrastructure on the ground to support everything.

"We have to work out how to refuel these aeroplanes because existing infrastructure won't work and we have to work out other things such as the fire and rescue requirements for the aeroplane, so there's quite a lot of work to do but certainly it's very exciting going forward."

The British government is backing the initiative within its Jet Zero Council program, aimed at net-zero emissions flights being a reality in the future.

Government ministers hope it will benefit the UK economically, following the coronavirus crisis.

Aviation minister Robert Courts told Sky News: "There's also an opportunity, as we build back, to make sure that we've got environmental credentials at the heart of this. This is world-beating technology which has an economic opportunity for Britain as well as answering the global climate change challenge.”