HyPoint has entered into a multi-phase collaborative development agreement with Piasecki Aircraft Corporation (PiAC) to develop and certify hydrogen fuel cell systems for eVTOL applications.

The partnership’s objective is to deliver a customisable FAA-certified and zero carbon-emission hydrogen fuel cell system to the global eVTOL marketplace. This will offer eVTOL aircraft developers 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 per cent reduction in direct operating costs relative to turbine-powered rotorcraft.

The initial $6.5 million agreement will culminate in the development of five 650kW hydrogen fuel cell systems for use in Piasecki’s PA-890 eVTOL Compound Helicopter, which is expected to be the world’s first manned hydrogen-powered helicopter.

Dr. Alex Ivanenko, founder and CEO of HyPoint, said: “The much-anticipated arrival of eVTOL air taxis, and similar aircraft has been severely hindered by the technical limitations of existing power systems. 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.

“Together, HyPoint and Piasecki will work to grow the emerging eVTOL market by delivering a certified multi-platform solution for eVTOL makers. In addition, we share a common vision for making safe, cost-effective zero carbon-emission flight a reality for conscientious businesses and consumers around the world.”

Piasecki will gain exclusive license to the technology created as part of the partnership, where HyPoint will maintain ownership of its underlying hydrogen fuel cell technology. Piasecki and HyPoint intend to make the new system available to eVTOL makers by customising it for use in their vehicles. Alternatively, eVTOL aircraft OEMs may choose to partner with HyPoint to develop a new system based on their specific needs.

HyPoint’s revolutionary approach utilises compressed air for both cooling and oxygen supply to deliver a hydrogen fuel cell system that radically outperforms existing battery and hydrogen fuel cell alternatives.

Testing has shown that HyPoint’s fuel cell system will be able to achieve up to 2,000 watts per kilogram of specific power, which is more than triple the power-to-weight ratio of traditional (liquid-cooled) hydrogen fuel cells systems. It will also boast up to 1,500 watt-hours per kilogram of energy density, enabling longer-distance journeys.

Piasecki is currently working with the FAA to outline certification criteria, as well as with the United States Air Force, by way of its AFWERX STTR/SBIR program, which is co-investing in the development of advanced hydrogen-powered aeronautical technology.

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. Success will pave the way for collaboration with other eVTOL OEMs with different platform sizes to ensure broad application of this technology.

“Initial lab testing funded by Piasecki last winter demonstrated the technical viability of HyPoint’s hydrogen fuel cell system. While we are benchmarking HyPoint’s technology against alternatives and continue to rigorously test and validate findings, we are very optimistic. Our objective is to develop full-scale systems within two years to support on-aircraft certification testing in 2024 and fulfil existing customer orders for up to 325 units starting in 2025.

In December 2020, HyPoint was named a winner of NASA’s iTech Initiative, in which breakthrough technologies were ranked based on criteria that included technical viability, benefits to humanity, and commercialisation potential. HyPoint’s aviation applications — including eVTOL, UAS, personal air vehicles, and electric aircraft — were considered to be especially innovative.