passenger aircraft
Image credit: AETOSWire

After 12 years developing hydrogen propulsion systems for small unmanned aircraft, HES Energy Systems has unveiled its plans for Element One, the world’s first regional hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft.

One century after the start of commercial aviation, HES is joining forces with a variety of partners to pioneer a new form of aerial mobility: quiet and zero carbon, personalised, on-demand, decentralised and economically inclusive of rural communities.

Designed as a zero-emissions aircraft, Element One merges HES’ ultra-light hydrogen fuel cell technologies with a distributed electric aircraft propulsion design.

With virtually no change to its current drone-scale systems, HES’ distributed system allows for modularity and increased safety through multiple system redundancies.

Element One is designed to fly 4 passengers for 500 km to 5000 km depending on whether hydrogen is stored in gaseous or liquid form.

This performance is several orders of magnitude better than any battery-electric aircraft attempt so far, opening new aerial routes between smaller towns and rural areas using an existing and dense network of small-scale airports and aerodromes.

Originally from Singapore, HES has been working with a number of fast-moving start-ups and SMEs in France over the past year and exploring various locations to execute its Element One vision, including Aerospace Valley, the global aviation R&D hub located in Toulouse.

Its parent company H3 Dynamics has been a symbol of intensifying technological cooperation between the two countries as part of the 2018 Year of Innovation.

The promise of hydrogen-electric power could shape the future of aviation. “It’s now possible to break past the endurance limits of battery-electric flight using HES’ ultra-light hydrogen energy storage in a distributed propulsion arrangement,” says Taras Wankewycz, founder of HES. “Element One’s design paves the way for renewable hydrogen as a long-range fuel for electric aviation.”

Refueling Element One will take no more than 10 minutes using an automated nacelle swap system that applies AGVs and automated warehouse operations such as those used by Amazon and Alibaba.