EBACE Convention News

Hydrogen Innovator's Big Propulsion Plans Starts Small

 - May 23, 2022, 1:37 AM
Hydroplane intends to have its hydrogen-powered technology demonstrator, based on a Piper PA-28-180, ready to start flight testing in 2023. The Lycoming engine will be replaced by a 200 kW fuel cell powerplant. (Image: Hydroplane)

With momentum building for a hydrogen-based future for aircraft propulsion, EBACE visitors have a chance to hear first-hand from one of the innovators in this field. California-based Hydroplane is part of the event’s Innovation Zone (Booth IZ_08) and will be presenting the work it is doing to develop a modular hydrogen fuel cell powerplant for aviation applications and mobile energy storage.

Founder and CEO Anita Sengupta is participating in the EBACE Newsmakers’ Luncheon on Monday from 12 p.m. to 1.30 p.m. The former NASA rocket scientist and commercial pilot is serving on the “Sustainability–a Flight Plan for the Future” panel.

Hydroplane’s business plan is to develop affordable fuel cell technology that can be used to convert existing single-engine aircraft. The 200 kW units are intended to replace combustion powerplants in current aircraft and also to be used in new urban air mobility vehicles. The company says it will provide greater range, endurance and payload compared with battery-based systems.

According to Sengupta, once proven on small aircraft, “the powerplant will then expand to support regional-range aircraft, reducing operating costs while boosting sustainability for business aviation.” The company aims to start flying its technology demonstrator aircraft in 2023.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Air Force awarded Hydroplane a second Small Business Technology Transfer contract, marking the close of the startup’s seed round of fundraising. The contract will allow the company to demonstrate an engineering-model hydrogen fuel cell-based powerplant in a ground and flight demonstration in partnership with the University of Houston. Use cases for the technology include flight training, commercial transportation, air taxi, cargo transportation, humanitarian aid, and government support. The company plans to certify its product under FAA Part 23 rules as a direct replacement for piston-power plants. The Hydroplane team consists of space programs, aviation, and automotive engineers, and fuel cell technologists experienced in developing new technology for NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin, Boeing, and academia.