US-based rotorcraft and drone developer Piasecki Aircraft is to use a hydrogen fuel cell system supplied from engineering firm HyPoint in its PA-890 eVTOL aircraft, creating what could be the world’s first hydrogen-powered Helicopter.
A US$6.5 million deal has been made by the two companies covering the development and certification of HyPoint’s air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell system for PA-890.
The PA-890 is all-electric- slowed-rotor winged compound helicopter Piasecki intended for use in emergency medical services, high-value logisitics and personnel transport. Piasecki plans to conduct certification testing for the PA-890 in 2024 and to fulfil existing customer orders for up to 325 units in 2025.
The agreement includes the supply of five 650kW hydrogen fuel-cell systems from Hypoint for use in Piasecki’s PA-890 eVTOL compound helicopter. It also aims is to develop a customizable, FAA-certified, zero carbon-emission hydrogen fuel-cell system for other eVTOL makers to use.
According to California-based HyPoint, the system offers four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries, twice the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel cell systems and up to a 50% reduction in direct operating costs relative to turbine-powered rotorcraft.
HyPoint’s fuel-cell system uses compressed air for both cooling and oxygen supply, to deliver a high-temperature system that it claims is three times lighter than comparable liquid-cooled low-temperature fuel-cell systems.
A prototype of the fuel-cell system passed key validation testing earlier this year and the company expects the first full-scale versions of the fuel cell to be available next year.
The testing showed that the turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell system can achieve up to 2,000 watts per kilogram of specific power, more than triple the power-to-weight ratio of traditional hydrogen fuel cells systems. It will also feature up to 1,500 watt-hours per kilogram of energy density, enabling longer-distance journeys.
The fuel cell uses lightweight bipolar plates and a highly-conductive corrosion-resistant coating to reduce its costs. The system won NASA’s iTech Initiative in December 2020 as a breakthrough technology. Hypoint is also working with hydrogen-aircraft ZeroAvia to test its fuel cell system.
Alex Ivanenko, founder and CEO of HyPoint, “This new strategic partnership will dramatically accelerate delivery timelines by equipping eVTOL manufacturers with next-generation hydrogen fuel cell systems that meet their unique needs.
The PA-890 has been designed for FAA certification under existing Part 27 standards. Piasecki Aircraft is working with the FAA to outline certification criteria and is also part of the US Air Force’s Afwerx innovation initiative.
John Piasecki, President and CEO of Piasecki said, “We are laser-focused on the development and qualification of a 650kW system for our PA-890 eVTOL compound helicopter, which would be the world’s first manned hydrogen-powered helicopter.
“While we are benchmarking HyPoint’s technology against alternatives and continue to rigorously test and validate findings, we are very optimistic.”