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World's First Manned Hydrogen Helicopter Is in the Works

The plan involves developing hydrogen fuel cell systems for all eVTOLs.

World's First Manned Hydrogen Helicopter Is in the Works
Piasecki Aircraft's PA-890 eVTOL helicopter Piasecki Aircraft

The world's first hydrogen-electric compound helicopter is underway and currently set to take to the skies in 2025.

An eVTOL and hydrogen power dream team comprising hydrogen fuel cell innovator HyPoint and Piasecki Aircraft recently signed a partnership to build the world's first manned hydrogen helicopter, reported New Atlas.

And if that wasn't enough, they're simultaneously going to be working on the development and certification of a hydrogen fuel cell system that can be added to any eVTOL on the market. The hope is to radically increase range capacity. 

The team plans to use HyPoint's latest turbo air cooled hydrogen fuel cell system that boasts up to 2,000 Watts per kilogram of power, and high energy density of up to 1,500-Wh/kg — which is a huge step up in terms of range capacity.

To put these numbers into perspective, today's traditional lithium-ion batteries (which most eVTOLs utilize) can reach roughly 350-Wh/kg of energy density. As for the air cooled hydrogen system, regular liquid cooled hydrogen fuel cell systems are three times lower in terms of power-to-weight ratio, per News Atlas.

The agreement between HyPoint and Piasecki

So working with HyPoint's technology, the team's current plan is to develop five 650-Kh/kg hydrogen fuel systems — offering twice as much power as current ones — to power Piasecki Aircraft's PA-890 eVTOL Slowed Rotor Winged Compound helicopter.

HyPoint's systems have to first undergo ground testing, demo flights, and receive full certification, reported TechCrunch, and in the end, the entire system will have four times the existing energy density of current lithium-ion batteries, cost up to 50 percent less relative to operational costs to turbine-powered rotorcrafts, and as previously mentioned, have double the power of existing hydrogen fuel cell systems.

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Once developed, Piasecki will have the exclusive license to the technology, and HyPoint will keep its ownership of the original hydrogen fuel cell tech, per H2 View.

But once done, the system will be able to be offered to eVTOL companies around the world. Given the push toward eVTOL technology, from single-seating eVTOLs to bigger 40-passenger versions, it's clear to see there is a huge market for this tech.

With regards to the agreement between HyPoint and Piasecki Aircraft, the hope is for the first hydrogen fuel cell system to be delivered to Piasecki by 2023, and the rest will hopefully fall into place for 2025 launch of the PA-890 rotorcraft.

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