Natilus partners with ZeroAvia to develop a hydrogen-electric freight carrier

Natilus' Kona will feature ZeroAvia's ZA600 powertrain to offer a zero-emission UAV.
Jijo Malayil
A model of Kona aircraft
A model of Kona aircraft


To further clean mobility in the aviation sector, Natilus and ZeroAvia have jointly entered into a strategic partnership to develop hydrogen-electric engines for the Natilus Kona cargo aircraft. Kona is a 3.8-ton payload (category) autonomous short-haul feeder intended for the domestic market.

Natilus, a US-based startup, aims to advance the global air transport industry with its autonomous blended wing body (BWB) cargo aircraft solutions. On the other hand, ZeroAvia focuses on designing and building zero-emission, hydrogen-electric aircraft propulsion systems. 

The agreement will see ZeroAvia's ZA600 will be the sole "hydrogen-electric propulsion source offered for the novel Kona short-haul feeder UAV, with the partnership focused on delivering zero-emission and lower-cost operations," said a press release

More sustainable aviation

With its modern BWB design, the Natilus Kona offers more space for hydrogen storage, possibly converting the air freight transport sector to one with cheap costs and zero carbon emissions while expanding its flying range. 

The aircraft is also being developed as a remotely piloted uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV), allowing up to three aircraft to be controlled by a licensed drone operator. This would reduce the vehicle's operating expenses and ease the burden on carriers struggling due to pilot shortages.

Natilus claims that its vehicles can offer 60 percent more cargo volume than traditional aircraft for the same weight, providing a 60 percent reduction in the total cost of operations and 50 percent less CO2 for the same trip. 

The partnership with ZeroAvia can help the firm utilize its expertise in hydrogen-electric powertrain technology with Natilus’ unique design to "create a scalable, long-range, and zero-emission air cargo delivery solution for the entire industry."

ZeroAvia claims that its retrofit hydrogen-powered solutions can offer up to 30 times higher specific energy and lower cycling costs than lithium-ion batteries and numerous advantages over all other decarbonization solutions, offering a viable and scalable solution for zero-emission aviation.

The partnership comes at a critical stage for both firms

The association comes at an ideal stage for both firms following three years of intensive wind-tunnel research, Natilus recently verified the performance of the BWB design with flight testing of a quarter-scale Kona prototype aircraft. While, ZeroAvia has already completed eight test flights of its prototype ZA600, 600kW engine in a 19-seat testbed aircraft. 

The partnership can help "bring the talents and innovations of the two companies together to deliver much-needed innovation in the air cargo delivery industry and multiple solutions for our customers, said Aleksey Matyushev, Co-founder and CEO of Natilus, in a press note.  

ZeroAvia is developing two engine classes initially, targeting a 300-mile range in 9–19 seat aircraft by 2025 (ZA600) and up to 700-mile range in 40–80 seat aircraft by 2027. The firm has signed "several agreements with airframe OEMs relevant to ZA600 – including Textron Aviation, manufacturer of the Cessna Caravan, and private aircraft manufacturer Otto Aviation."

According to Natilus, it currently has a 460+ order book for its aircraft with pre-orders from firms including major airlines and integrators like Ameriflight, Volatus Aerospace, Flexport, Astral, Aurora International, and Dymond, totaling more than $6.8 billion in order commitments. Apart from Kona, the Natilus family of cargo aircraft includes Alisio (60-ton payload medium/long-range UAV) and Nordes (100-ton payload long-range UAV).

​Natilus is currently building a full-scale Kona aircraft with an 85-foot (26-meter) wingspan for final testing, and the partnership with ZeroAvia is poised to speed up the process. 

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board