Zipline Unveils New Autonomous System

Zipline unveiled its new platform that aims to provide quiet, fast and precise autonomous delivery directly to homes in cities and suburbs. The company says their next generation home delivery platform is practically silent and is expected to deliver up to seven times as fast as traditional automobile delivery, completing 10-mile deliveries in about 10 minutes.

Zipline has spent the last several years building and fine tuning its next generation technology, Platform 2 (P2), to provide an optimal customer experience at scale. Unlike other drone delivery services, Zipline’s drones (Zips) fly more than 300 feet above the ground and are nearly inaudible. When the Zip arrives at its destination, it hovers safely and quietly at that altitude, while its fully autonomous delivery droid maneuvers down a tether, steers to the correct location, and gently drops off its package to areas as small as a patio table or the front steps of a home. This is all made possible through major innovations in aircraft and propeller design.

Several businesses across the healthcare and restaurant sectors have already signed on to use Zipline’s new home delivery service. Sweetgreen is partnering with Zipline to further its mission of connecting people to real food in the U.S., while moving a step closer to its pledge to be carbon-neutral by 2027. By ordering through Zipline’s marketplace, Sweetgreen customers can get their orders using 97% less energy than traditional automotive methods.

“The future of delivery is faster, more sustainable and creates broader access, all of which provides improved value for our customers,” said Jonathan Neman, co-founder and CEO of Sweetgreen. “We couldn’t be more excited to work with Zipline to complement our delivery strategy. Zipline’s sustainable technology and ability to reach customers quickly, with a great delivery experience, will help us give our customers what they want, when they want it.”

Zipline delivery simulation.

Michigan Medicine will use Zipline’s new service to more than double the number of prescriptions it fills each year through its in-house pharmacy. Intermountain Health will use it to deliver prescriptions to patients’ homes in the Salt Lake City metro area. MultiCare Health System plans to use the new platform to expedite diagnostics and deliver prescriptions and medical devices throughout MultiCare’s network of facilities, including hospitals, laboratories and doctors’ offices. And Zipline’s first customer, the Government of Rwanda, will use the company’s new home delivery service to enable urban aerial last-mile delivery to homes, hotels and health facilities in Kigali and elsewhere in the country.

Zipline’s end-to-end solution integrates with a business’s current operations. That includes its dual-use docking and charging hardware, software that easily works with third-party inventory management and ordering systems, an app that allows order tracking down to the second and an autonomy system that has already guided the flight paths of 40 million commercial miles. Zipline designed its docking and charging hardware to have a light footprint that can be attached to any building or set up as a freestanding structure. A Zip can be easily loaded by a business employee who can send off orders in seconds, right from their location, without even having to leave the kitchen, pharmacy or doctors’ office. Businesses can offer Zipline’s home delivery service in a variety of ways, including native integrations into apps and websites, white labeled opportunities, and by joining Zipline’s marketplace. Customers can make on-demand orders, or schedule the exact time they’d like their package to arrive, down to the second.

Each P2 Zip has a 10-mile service radius while carrying a six-to-eight pound payload for out-and-back deliveries from a single dock. Alternatively, it can also fly up to 24 miles one way from dock to dock, charging at each dock before picking up its next delivery. Because Zips can move from dock to dock, Zipline can dynamically respond to peak order times — ensuring there’s enough delivery capacity for an urgent prescription delivery or a busy Friday pizza night or weekday lunch rush.

“Over the last decade, global demand for instant delivery has skyrocketed, but the technology we’re using to deliver is 100 years old. We’re still using the same 3,000-pound, gas combustion vehicles, driven by humans, to make billions of deliveries that usually weigh less than 5 pounds. It’s slow, it’s expensive, and it’s terrible for the planet,” said Keller Rinaudo Cliffton, co-founder and CEO of Zipline. “Our new service is changing that and will finally make deliveries work for you and around your schedule. We have built the closest thing to teleportation ever created – a smooth, ultrafast, convenient, and truly magical autonomous logistics system that serves all people equally, wherever they are.”

Zipline plans to conduct high-volume flight tests this year involving more than 10,000 test flights using about 100 aircraft. The first customer deployment of P2 will follow shortly after that. Zipline’s record for safety has been proven over the past seven years of operations and over more than 500,000 commercial flights. Its long-range platform, P1, has autonomously flown 40 million miles worth of commercial deliveries through all kinds of weather without a safety incident — the vast majority of which were flights flown beyond visual line of sight.

Zipline has received Part 135 certification, is authorized to complete the longest-range, on-demand commercial drone flights in America, and recently received FAA approval to enable its onboard autonomous detect and avoid system.

Zipline completed more deliveries in 2022 than in all previous years combined, and is planning to complete about 1 million deliveries by the end of 2023. By 2025, Zipline expects to operate more flights annually than most airlines.

Lockheed Martin and Northumbria University Join Forces to Unlock the Future of Space-Based Solar Power

Lockheed Martin is celebrating STEM in British Science Week with Northumbria University by investing £150,000 in a project that aims to accelerate the delivery of space-based solar power. Combining science and technology, the project will use specialized photovoltaic cells that will collect and convert laser power into usable power for future space and lunar vehicles.

With this year’s British Science Week theme being ‘connection’, this technology has future applications that could include space-based solar power, that could deliver a consistent source of clean energy in all weather conditions and at all times of day. By harvesting the Sun’s energy, this new form of solar power could potentially beam electricity wirelessly from space to Earth, bringing a new source of zero carbon power to connect homes and businesses without the need for large amounts of land-based infrastructure.

Paul Livingston, Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin UK, said, “Our collaboration with Northumbria University will advance the use of space-based solar power for satellites, space vehicles and potentially usable power back on earth. We are delighted to be helping grow the North East’s space economy and the overall industrial capacity and resilience of the UK’s space and manufacturing sectors.”

The collaboration follows years of successful experiments by Lockheed Martin into laser-based systems and builds on the business’ existing relationship with Northumbria University. This new project is an extension of the partnership announced last year, which has seen Lockheed Martin invest over £600,000 to support the development of skills, research and technology across the North East. 

As part as Lockheed Martin’s commitment to raise awareness and celebrate science, engineering and technology across a wider target audience, the company recently hosted an event for the SME community at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle. As well as this, Lockheed Martin brought together supply chain representatives at the Skills and Supplier Summit in Tyneside as well as launching Team Athena’s space camp in Newcastle, equipping the next generation with the skills required for thriving careers in the space and technology industry. 

“Northumbria University is a UK front-runner in research into photovoltaics and solar energy and our reputation for world-leading research in space and satellite technologies has grown exponentially in recent years,” said Professor John Woodward, faculty pro vice-chancellor for engineering and environment, Northumbria University. “This exciting project with Lockheed Martin combines these areas of excellence and will enable us to innovate further to find new ways to generate and store renewable energy.”

Lockheed Martin is also a strategic partner to the UK Government, working with the UK Space Agency to conduct northern Europe’s first vertical satellite launch from the SaxaVord Spaceport (learn more about SaxaVord in a related feature here) in Shetland and delivering a wide range of programs for the Ministry of Defence. 

Southwest First Airline to Fly Aero Design Lab’s Drag Reduction Kit In Revenue Service

Aero Design Labs (ADL) announced the first revenue flight with its proprietary drag reduction kit installed, has been flown on a Southwest Airlines 737-700 aircraft. Lee Sanders, Aero Design Labs founder and executive chairman, was among the Customers on the historic flight that was recently operated from Dallas to El Paso with the kit installed.

Southwest will be running a network evaluation of drag reduction kits installed on five of its 737-700 aircraft to measure fuel efficiency. ADL’s drag reduction kit is designed to reduce the amount of drag on the aircraft, resulting in reduced fuel burn rate and lower carbon intensity.

“This is exciting news for our entire team at Aero Design Labs who have worked diligently over the last several years to bring this important innovation to fruition,” said Jeff Martin, Aero Design Labs president and CEO. “We are delighted that Southwest has chosen to test our kits on five of its aircraft, and we are confident they will be able to take advantage of the reduced fuel burn rate and lowered carbon emissions intensity our kits provide.”

“As Southwest Airlines continues to seek opportunities to improve fuel efficiency, which reduces our carbon emissions intensity and helps us address our environmental footprint, we are partnering with ADL to test modifications to five of our 737-700s with the goal of reducing our fuel burn rate on a per aircraft basis,” said Chris Monroe, Southwest’s senior vice president of finance, treasury, and sustainability. “In our constant search for new ways to operate more efficiently and safely, we look forward to this trial of ADL’s innovative and proprietary drag reduction kit.”

“Our work on these retrofit kits represents the first of what will be many opportunities with other aircraft types as we continue our research and development,” commented Chris Jones, Aero Design Labs’ Chief Commercial Officer. “Airlines the world over have expressed interest in our programs, and we are working diligently to develop modifications for numerous aircraft types. We applaud and thank Southwest for seeing the value our kits can provide.”

Collins Aerospace to Develop Thermoplastics for Liquid Hydrogen Tanks

Collins Aerospace has been selected under the Clean Hydrogen Joint Undertaking to lead a consortium working to develop new thermoplastics technology for the liquid hydrogen tanks necessary to power hydrogen propulsion architectures in future more sustainable aircraft.

The Collins-led consortium will bring together Collins sites across France, Italy, United Kingdom, Poland, the Netherlands, U.S. and Ireland along with NLR, Delft University of Technology, ATR, Novotech, and Unified International.

While liquid hydrogen contains approximately three times as much energy per kg as traditional jet fuel, it has a lower specific density meaning that it requires nearly four times as much volume to match the energy content of the same mass of traditional jet fuel. To overcome this, thermoplastic tank structures are in development. This strong, yet lightweight tank design is the focus of the new project.

“The COCOLIH2T project addresses the challenges of shifting from traditional jet fuel to a fully sustainable, clean burning hydrogen fuel” said Mary Lombardo, vice president, Advanced Technologies at Collins Aerospace. “Compared with traditional fuel tanks, hydrogen tanks must reduce weight and enable containment of cryogenic fluid. COCOLIH2T is the kind of aerospace industry cross-collaboration Collins is focused on to reduce the environmental impact of aviation and lead us to a sustainable future”

The company believes the project has the potential to go beyond by designing and manufacturing a disruptive tank through novel fabrication technologies enabling a 60% reduction in production energy consumption and at least 50% in production time leading to significantly lower manufacturing costs.

Thermoplastic composites are advanced materials known for their durability and unique manufacturing characteristics. The material is lightweight, suitable for extreme temperatures and has the capacity to be recycled. Collins is developing technologically advanced materials for the future of sustainable commercial aviation.

Honeywell Tests Using SAF in its APUs and Propulsion Engines

Honeywell recently received its first delivery of sustainable aviation fuel at its Phoenix Engines campus. The fuel will support development and production testing of auxiliary power units (APUs) and propulsion engines at the site, along with testing of fielded units from Honeywell’s repair and overhaul facility. Developed by World Energy in California using Honeywell’s UOP Ecofining technology and distributed by World Fuel Services, the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is produced by converting readily available renewable materials such as hydrotreated esters and fatty acids (HEFA). SAF can be combined with conventional jet fuel to power aircraft in blends of up to 50 percent with petroleum-based jet fuel. Blended SAF requires no changes to engine or aircraft fuel systems or fuel infrastructure. Honeywell also has plans to test other SAF blends and to run engines and APUs on 100 percent SAF in the future.”At Honeywell, we see SAF as a logical path to decarbonize the aviation industry and we consider our facilities as laboratories for sustainable innovation,” said Dave Marinick, president of engines and power systems, Honeywell Aerospace.

Illinois Tech Professor Demonstrates Novel Control Method in Aircraft with No Tail

Illinois Tech Professor Demonstrates Novel Control Method in Aircraft with No Tail

A research team at Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech), led by Professor David Williams, has for the first time demonstrated the use of a novel control method in an aircraft with no tail. The technology allows an aircraft to be as smooth and sleek as possible, making it safer to fly in dangerous areas where radar scans the sky for sharp edges.While conventional aircraft rely on protruding fins to enable steering, a tailless design is controlled by active air flow — in which jets of air are blown onto different surfaces of the aircraft body, corresponding to which direction the aircraft is moving. This technology could be employed to make commercial airplanes more fuel-efficient by removing existing steering parts that create a lot of drag.Williams, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, led a team of Illinois Tech students and collaborators in the construction of a jet that houses both conventional steering controls and a novel implementation of active flow control. In October 2022 the group launched the jet from the Pendleton Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Range in Oregon for two nine-minute flights that demonstrated the success of the system. For each flight, one pilot launched the jet using conventional flight controls. Then, midflight, they switched control to a second pilot who operated the active flow control system. In the first test, the team found that the active flow control system actually provided more power than had been predicted from wind tunnel tests. “In engineering, it never works that way, you almost always get less than you were hoping for, but in this case, we got more,” said Williams. “The first day was very dramatic.”Once the pilots gained confidence in their ability to control the craft, they executed roll and pitch maneuvers to test the active flow control’s ability to steer the jet at steep angles. An advantage of active flow control is that it has the potential to allow for maneuvers that are impossible with conventional controls, including very fast turns and the ability to fly at angles that would cause conventional controls to become ineffective. For their second flight, Williams reduced the power to the active flow control system for a safer, more stable flight, allowing them to collect more data. The active flow control is implemented using a patent pending Coanda valve designed by Williams and his students.Williams is a member of a NATO working group that received the organization’s 2021 Excellence Award for its efforts in this area.

Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft: A Technology Whose Time Is Coming

Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft: A Technology Whose Time Is Coming

On January 19, 2023, a 19-seat Dornier 228 aircraft equipped with a ZeroAvia hydrogen-electric engine on its left wing and a Honeywell TPE-331 stock engine on its right flew successfully at ZeroAvia’s R&D facility at Cotswold Airport in Gloucestershire, U.K. The 10-minute flight included a takeoff, a full pattern circuit and landing.

The ZeroAvia hydrogen-electric engine was powered by two hydrogen fuel cell stacks and hydrogen tanks inside the Dornier’s cabin. Lithium-ion battery packs onboard provided peak power support during takeoff, plus redundant power for safe testing. In a commercial configuration, storage elsewhere in the aircraft would be used for the hydrogen system components and the seats restored.

The January 19, 2023, test flight used the largest ZeroAvia hydrogen-electric engine flown so far, which the company plans to submit for certification by the end of this year. The test flight proved that hydrogen-fueled aircraft are on their way to becoming a viable commercial reality.

Ellen EbnerBoeing
Ellen Ebner

“At this point, the aircraft industry is making significant progress in the development of functional hydrogen-powered aircraft,” said Alex Ivanenko, general manager of VTOL and new segments at ZeroAvia, and formerly CEO and founder at the hydrogen fuel cell stack innovator HyPoint, which ZeroAvia acquired in October 2022. “Many major aircraft manufacturers have committed funds and resources to develop hydrogen-powered aircraft, and the number of projects involving hydrogen fuel cell technology has grown significantly in the last two years. There is still a lot of work to be done, however, and significant challenges remain before the industry can move from concept designs to fully operational aircraft.”

Boeing’s hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye is a liquid hydrogen-fueled, high-altitude and long-endurance unmanned aircraft system for persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and communications missions. The demonstrator aircraft is capable of maintaining its altitude for up to four days while carrying a 450-pound payload. Boeing image.
Boeing’s hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye is a liquid hydrogen-fueled, high-altitude and long-endurance unmanned aircraft system for persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and communications missions. The demonstrator aircraft is capable of maintaining its altitude for up to four days while carrying a 450-pound payload. Boeing image.

Ivanenko’s assessment is echoed by Ellen Ebner, Boeing’s director of sustainability and future mobility. “The aircraft industry is in the beginning stages of creating a hydrogen-powered aircraft suitable for regional missions,” she said. “Commercial aircraft have a long development timeline, and the added challenge of fully developing and certifying hydrogen aircraft energy and propulsion systems means there is a great deal of uncertainty on entry-into-service for a hydrogen aircraft. Furthermore, the aircraft need to fly economically-viable missions and use economically-viable green (cleanly produced) hydrogen.”

ZeroAvia tested its hydrogen-electric engine, powered by two hydrogen fuel cell stacks and hydrogen tanks inside this Dornier 228’s cabin in January 2023. ZeroAvia image.
ZeroAvia tested its hydrogen-electric engine, powered by two hydrogen fuel cell stacks and hydrogen tanks inside this Dornier 228’s cabin in January 2023. ZeroAvia image.

Two Approaches to Hydrogen Power

ZeroAvia’s hydrogen fuel cell system is one of two ways being considered in the quest for clean hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Alex IvanenkoZeroAvia
Alex Ivanenko

The first approach consumes hydrogen to produce electricity, and then uses that energy to power electric aircraft engines. There are two ways to do this. “The first model involves replacing battery electric systems for novel aircraft with hydrogen fuel cells — LTPEM FC or turbo air-cooled HTPEM FC — which are capable of providing a more reliable and lighter weight source of energy than batteries,” said Ivanenko. “The second model involves replacing existing combustion engines with hydrogen-electric propulsion systems including electric motor, fuel cell and hydrogen storage. This model is becoming increasingly popular as it is more efficient, quieter and cleaner than conventional engines.”

Airbus rendering of a blended-wing body type aircraft. In this concept, the liquid hydrogen storage tanks are stored underneath the wings. Two hybrid-hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust. Airbus images.
Airbus rendering of a blended-wing body type aircraft. In this concept, the liquid hydrogen storage tanks are stored underneath the wings. Two hybrid-hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust. Airbus images.

The second approach uses hydrogen as a combustion-based replacement for kerosene ‘JET A-1’ aviation fuel. Both options are being investigated by Airbus under its ZEROe (Zero Emissions) initiative, first unveiled in September 2020. At its ZEROe web page (, Airbus is proposing three kinds of hydrogen-fueled aircraft concepts, which would use both direct hydrogen combustion and hydrogen fuel cells.

Glenn LLewellynAirbus
Glenn LLewellyn

The first ZEROe aircraft version would resemble a conventional low-wing Airbus twinjet but use two hybrid-hydrogen turbofan engines to provide thrust; with liquid hydrogen storage and its distribution system being located behind the rear pressure bulkhead (RPB). The second concept aircraft, with a high-wing, T-tail turboprop layout, would feature two hybrid-hydrogen turboprop engines with eight-bladed propellers to provide thrust, also with the storage/distribution located behind the RPB.

The third proposed ZEROe aircraft would employ a ‘Blended-Wing Body’ (BWB) with a very wide fuselage being part of the lift system. “The exceptionally wide interior opens up multiple options for hydrogen storage and distribution,” said the Airbus website. “Here, the liquid hydrogen storage tanks are stored underneath the wings. Two hybrid-hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust.”

Airbus’ goal in pursuing its ZEROe initiative is to have viable zero emission hydrogen-powered aircraft in commercial service by 2035. “Real demonstrators recently announced by Airbus — including direct hydrogen combustion (gas turbine) and hydrogen fuel cells — will form a key part of this evaluation phase,” according to information provided by the company. “Airbus’ final decision on an actual aircraft configuration will be made when the technology’s maturity reaches an adequate level. We expect the technology to achieve this level in the next two to four years; around the 2024-2025 timeframe.”

As part of its ZEROe testing initiative, Airbus is reconfiguring its A380 MSN1 test aircraft — the first-ever A380 to roll off the production line — to conduct in-flight tests of a GE Passport turbofan engine modified to use liquid-hydrogen fuel.

A fascinating tour inside this ‘ZEROe demonstrator’ can be viewed online at “Our plan is to take this aircraft and modify it into a hydrogen propulsion flight laboratory,” said video tour host Glenn Llewellyn, Airbus vice-president, zero-emission aircraft. “Our ambition is to take this aircraft and add a stub in between the two rear doors at the upper level. That stub will have on the end of it, a hydrogen-powered gas turbine, and inside the aircraft there will be hydrogen storage and hydrogen distribution, which will feed this engine with hydrogen.”

Reconfiguring MSN1, whose original purpose was to put the A380’s own functions through their paces, is no small deal. It will include installing four hermetically sealed liquid hydrogen tanks at the rear of MSN1’s lower main deck, plus a distribution system to feed the hybrid hydrogen engine on its mounting stub.

“There will be a huge amount of instrumentation and sensors around the hydrogen storage distribution and hydrogen engine,” Llewellyn said in the video. The resulting flight test data will be studied by Airbus engineers on the ground, as well as being relayed to an onboard flight test station in real-time.

The fact that Boeing has not revealed definitive plans to build hydrogen-powered aircraft does not mean that the company isn’t taking this subject seriously. It is, and Boeing’s activities in this area include addressing the challenges associated with making hydrogen propulsion commercially feasible. Shown here is a Boeing-converted Diamond DA20 as it conducted the world’s first crewed flight using fuel cells powered by hydrogen about 15 years ago. Boeing image.
The fact that Boeing has not revealed definitive plans to build hydrogen-powered aircraft does not mean that the company isn’t taking this subject seriously. It is, and Boeing’s activities in this area include addressing the challenges associated with making hydrogen propulsion commercially feasible. Shown here is a Boeing-converted Diamond DA20 as it conducted the world’s first crewed flight using fuel cells powered by hydrogen about 15 years ago. Boeing image.

Changes will also be made to MSN1’s cockpit to manage and monitor the hydrogen propulsion system in flight. It will include a throttle “to change the amount of power at which the hydrogen engine will be operated at,” said Llewellyn. “On top of that, there will be a display which will allow the pilots to monitor the different key parameters of the system during ground and flight operations.”

Boeing has not released its plans for achieving hydrogen-powered flight to the same extent that Airbus has. What the company will say is that “Boeing is developing future flight concepts to understand the potential of new technologies and products to contribute to net zero emissions by 2050,” said Ebner. “Our technology programs generate models and data that we use to evaluate future flight concepts — candidates for future flight demonstration or potential products. Over the years ahead, we will continue to mature technologies to create the building blocks for a future air transportation system that may include products of many types and energy carriers.”

Challenges to be Overcome

“Designing a hydrogen-powered aircraft and its operations bring significant technical challenges related to creating the aircraft itself, fueling and servicing hydrogen-powered aircraft, and sourcing green hydrogen; that is, hydrogen produced using renewable energy to reduce lifecycle carbon emissions,” said Ebner. For instance, commercial planes must be radically redesigned to use this propulsion system because hydrogen requires more space and cryogenic conditions for on-aircraft storage. “Hydrogen has a low boiling point and must be chilled at -423 degrees Fahrenheit (-253°C),” she said.

As well, hydrogen takes up to four times the storage space used by jet fuel to deliver the same speed and range, even though it weighs less than half as much per unit of energy. Add the need to contain super-chilled liquid hydrogen in a safe way, and the practice of using wing fuel tanks may well be over.

Meanwhile, “there are challenges containing hydrogen throughout the fuel systems;” insulation engineering challenges also have to be resolved to protect hydrogen from heat during flight,” said Ebner. “Due to their small size, hydrogen molecules can leak through minute pores of welded seams and be absorbed into metal, leaking or making metal brittle in cryogenic conditions.”

“Beyond storage, hydrogen has to be put to use on the airplane,” she added. “That means reliably combusting it in airborne turbines, or developing much higher performance fuel cells and electric powertrains than exists today. Aircraft designs need to take these factors into account: accommodating hydrogen energy systems can impact flight physics and the ability to serve useful missions.”

Then there’s the issue of onsite hydrogen fuel storage and delivery to aircraft. That’s a subject that Prof. Josef Kallo has given much thought to. He is CEO of H2FLY, a Stuttgart-based company whose HY4 four-seat airplane powered by hydrogen fuel cells first flew on September 29, 2016. Somewhat resembling a glider, the HY4 uses a unique design with a two-seat passenger pod on each wing, and a single electric engine top-mounted on the wing’s center point.

H2FLY’s focus is on providing the powertrain for hydrogen-fueled aircraft. It has just announced a partnership with Stuttgart Airport to build the Hydrogen Aviation Center for aircraft development and flight testing at that location, which will be managed by H2FLY. Finding ways to fuel hydrogen-powered aircraft efficiently and safely will be part of that process.

Josef KalloH2FLY
Josef Kallo

“Commercial aircraft operations require a high level of fuel system loading and unloading, and fast turn-times between cycles,” said Kallo. “The reliability of the fuel system is thus safety critical. Moreover, hydrogen tanks will have to be reused much more often for commercial flight than in space travel. Today, hydrogen tanks are repurposed fewer than 10 times in spacecraft. By contrast, commercial aircraft reuse traditional jet fuel tanks more than 1,000 times.”

Airbus concept drawing of a hydrogen production and storage facility.Airbus image.
Airbus concept drawing of a hydrogen production and storage facility.
Airbus image.

As part of its ZEROe initiative efforts, Airbus is looking at the logistics of storing hydrogen at airports and the best ways to transfer it safely yet efficiently to aircraft. “Deployment of infrastructure adapted to the aviation transition to hydrogen is mandatory,” said Karine Guenan, Airbus’ vice president of Zero Emission Ecosystem. “‘Hydrogen Hubs at Airports’ is a key part of the route to hydrogen deployment for aviation. Airbus is now collaborating with airports that are planning a stepped approach including using hydrogen to decarbonize all airport-associated ground transport — heavy goods logistics, buses, and tow trucks — in the 2020 to 2030 timeframe.”

Be Ready to Dispel Hydrogen Myths

A word to the wise — aircraft manufacturers, aircraft operators and airports alike need to be prepared to dispel Hindenburg-inspired myths about exploding hydrogen aircraft, which will inevitably be spread in the media and on the web. Although “hydrogen has to be proven to be every bit as safe and practical as traditional jet fuel when properly stored and handled,” Kallo said, the conspiracy-crazed machine that is social media will likely spread overblown fears as this new form of aircraft propulsion is about to go mainstream.

Karine GuenanAirbus
Karine Guenan

To justifiably address the fear of hydrogen among reasonably minded citizens (there appears to be nothing that can be done about the lunatic fringe), “an alternative set of airworthiness requirements will need to be established by governments,” said Kallo. “Equipment will also have to be subject to rigorous qualification testing to prove that new designs are capable.”

Certification Will Take Time

For safety reasons, the radical newness of hydrogen-powered aircraft will have to be carefully assessed and examined by regulators before such aircraft are allowed to enter commercial service.

This is not good news for those wanting to deploy this technology as soon as it is ready. “One of the biggest challenges associated with creating hydrogen-powered aircraft and servicing those aircraft is certification,” Ivanenko said. “The certification process for hydrogen-powered aircraft is lengthy and costly, and there is no existing framework for certification due to the relatively new nature of the technology. Additionally, there are currently no established procedures for servicing them, but because these aircraft are based on fuel cells and electric motors, they will definitely require less and cheaper service than combustion engines or turbines.”

Of course, none of the zero emissions associated with hydrogen-powered aircraft will matter if the hydrogen fueling these aircraft doesn’t come from non-polluting sources. This is one of the concerns associated with the electric car rollout. If the power they use is generated by coal-fired plants, such cars are not actually ‘greener’ than their gas-guzzling counterparts.

For its part, Airbus believes in hydrogen’s potential to fuel its future aircraft,” said Guenan. “The challenge today is to support its long-term scale-up to ensure there is enough low-carbon hydrogen available to fuel the aviation industry’s needs.”

How Close Are We to the Goal?

Having seen how much progress is being made towards practical hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft, an obvious question remains: How close are we to achieving this goal?

According to ZeroAvia’s Alex Ivanenko, “we are still a few years away from seeing a commercial airline offering scheduled services with hydrogen-powered aircraft. A number of aircraft manufacturers are developing prototype planes and powertrains powered by hydrogen fuel cells, including ZeroAvia, Piasecki Aircraft Corporation, and Airbus. However, there are still several technological challenges — none of them fundamental — that must be overcome. So I expect that the first hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft could enter service in the late 2020s.”

Since the launch of its ZEROe campaign in September 2020, Airbus has expressed its view that the technologies required to power a zero-emission aircraft will be mature enough for a target entry-into-service date by 2035. Moreover, the company believes that most technologies required for a zero-emission aircraft are emerging already in other industries and Airbus has been working on this for some time already, so it isn’t starting from scratch. Technology demonstrators will be developed over the next five to six years and a full-scale aircraft prototype should be developed by the late 2020s.

According to H2FLY’s Prof. Josef Kallo, it isn’t technology that will decide when hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft will enter service, but money and regulations.

On the money front, the fact that there are currently about “ten-thousands of planes flying that provide commercial transportation capacity” means that the cost of replacing them isn’t seriously prohibitive, as compared to replacing millions of gasoline-powered carts/trucks with electric models. “The investment to move to hydrogen-powered aircraft would be hundreds of billions of dollars, but on a global basis it could be done,” said Kallo. “We can have this done in 10 years.”

Getting hydrogen-powered aircraft certified is another matter entirely. “As an engineer, I can tell you that it’s not the technology but the regulatory work that will slow things down,” he said. To speed things up will require substantial political will on the part of governments and regulators everywhere, which could happen if the push to cut emissions becomes more urgent as climate change gets worse.

“Yes, there is a risk associated with hydrogen-powered aircraft technology, but the risk technologically is small,” concluded Kallo. “We just have to invest a lot of head-start money to get this technology to the same level of reliability and efficiency as the internal combustion engine, but without that engine’s emissions and noise levels.”

Airbus set a goal to develop the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035. The multi-year demonstrator program has officially been launched with the objective to test a variety of hydrogen technologies both on the ground and in the air. Shown here is the hydrogen propulsion flight laboratory they are creating from A380 serial number 1.
Airbus set a goal to develop the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035. The multi-year demonstrator program has officially been launched with the objective to test a variety of hydrogen technologies both on the ground and in the air. Shown here is the hydrogen propulsion flight laboratory they are creating from A380 serial number 1.

The bottom line: Hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft are within the realm of practical, doable reality. The ‘how’ of getting them into service appears to be entirely doable. It’s just a matter of ‘when’.

Supernal Hires Former FAA UAS Executive Director Jay Merkle


Supernal announced the appointment of Jay Merkle as senior director of regulatory affairs. Merkle previously spent 30 years at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), most recently as executive director of the agency’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office.

“Uniting top aviation expertise is critical to Supernal’s mission of responsibly shaping and introducing the Advanced Air Mobility ecosystem,” said Jaiwon Shin, president of Hyundai Motor Group and CEO of Supernal. “Jay Merkle has tremendous depth and breadth in the industry, with a track record that emphasizes his bold vision for airspace safety and compliance. His experience – paired with that of fellow FAA veterans, including Mike Whitaker, at Supernal – will help our company integrate AAM into existing transportation networks and airspace over the coming decades.”

At the FAA, Merkle led the safe integration of drones into the National Airspace System and ensured all UAS integration activities and efforts were aligned with the agency’s overarching mission. Similarly in his new role on Supernal’s policy and regulations team, which is led by Diana Cooper, Merkle will help develop an integrated regulatory and policy framework to support AAM operations globally.

“My three decades at the FAA were focused on making our airspace more efficient, adaptable and robust – all of which are qualities that will be even more important with the introduction of a new class of aircraft,” Merkle said. “I look forward to collaborating closely with Supernal’s policy, legal, compliance and engineering teams to provide a total solution for AAM that delivers new levels of mobility while maintaining uncompromising safety standards.” 

Jay Merkle received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Central Florida and his master’s degree in industrial engineering and operations research from Virginia Tech.

Curtiss-Wright Receives $35 Million Contract to Provide Aircraft Arresting Systems Support to the French Air and Space Force (AAE)

Curtiss-Wright Corporation has been awarded a 10-year contract by the French Air and Space Force (AAE) to support its aircraft arresting systems. Under the contract, valued at approximately $35 million, Curtiss-Wright will provide logistics, analysis, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of specialized arresting systems equipment.

“As a leading global supplier of military aircraft arresting systems and support capabilities, Curtiss-Wright is pleased to have the opportunity to build upon our existing relationship with the French Air and Space Force to provide aftermarket and logistical services to support the availability and longevity of its arresting capability,” said Lynn M. Bamford, Chair and CEO of Curtiss-Wright Corporation. “In addition, this contract aligns with our strategy to continue to provide more turn-key arresting and safety solutions to our defense customers.”

The contract is part of a verticalization initiative for defense contracts by the French government, which results in a preference of a single point of contact for the same equipment. Curtiss-Wright thus now has the opportunity to work directly with the French government to provide a next level of integrated services and products.

Curtiss-Wright is performing the work at its Curtiss-Wright Arresting Systems facility in Merpins, France, part of its EMS division in the Naval & Power segment. Following the 2022 acquisition of the aerospace arresting systems business, and through its Merpins, France and Aston, PA facilities, Curtiss-Wright’s diverse arresting systems product portfolio includes energy absorbers, retractable hook cable systems, net-stanchion systems and mobile systems to support aircraft carrier and fixed land-based arresting systems.

Cargo2ZERO Helps Airlines and Freight Forwarders Report on Their CO2 Emissions

Cargo2ZERO puts carbon reporting, tracking and reduction within easy reach for freight forwarders of all sizes and airlines, ultimately contributing to a more sustainable future.

CO2 visibility emission data is available for all airline schedules, Routes and AWB tracking on CargoAi, which are calculated as per IATA RECOMMENDED PRACTICE 1678 STANDARD. Freight Forwarders can determine the carbon emission per AWB or bulk upload AWB in order to fulfill their sustainability reporting requirements, which are presently recommended only at a national level, rather than an international level. The data provided by CargoAi is the only solution based on actual booking/ AWB routing, aircraft code & shipment weight.

At present, sustainability reporting largely remains on a voluntary basis. In recent years, a number of voluntary reporting initiatives have thus been created to aid organizations and in parallel, many national reporting provisions have been developed. Although there is significant progress, a single international regulatory framework is yet to be finalized, and companies with a global footprint will then face mandatory audited environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting requirements. With data provided from Cargo2ZERO, such multinational companies will already have the ability to report on their Scope 3 emissions and be fully prepared for such audits.

CargoAi cites Visibility as the first step in tackling the issue of climate action. With Cargo2ZERO, freight forwarders can take the second step to Optimize emissions for each shipment with the CO2 Efficiency Score as their benchmark. The final piece of the puzzle is emission Reduction with Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) purchase, also part of Cargo2ZERO.

“With 8000+ freight forwarders on the platform, a number which is growing rapidly, and each one given the Visibility over their current booking choices, they then have the agency to Optimize every single shipment by choosing a more carbon-efficient route. Then, if each also goes the extra mile of Reducing carbon emissions by purchasing SAF alongside each booking – this has an exponential impact to scale rapidly to contribute to climate action from an individual level.” said Magali Beauregard, CCO of CargoAI.

Cargo2ZERO won an award for its Carbon Efficiency Score at the TIACA conference in Miami in 2022 in the start-up category. At the same conference, CargoAi announced its landmark partnership to allow freight forwarders of all sizes to purchase SAF with Neste, the leading producer of SAF. Through this partnership, small to medium-sized freight forwarders are now able to purchase SAF at a transactional level, which was previously only accessible to large freight forwarders who had significant resources to make direct contracts with airlines.

CargoAi attributes its success in winning not just the Sustainability Award in 2022, but also the Air Cargo News Innovation Award, thanks to its partnership with CargoTech, allowing for continued growth and innovation.

“We are thrilled with the positive feedback from the air cargo industry for our sustainability solution, Cargo2ZERO. CargoTech is a strategic investor in CargoAi, and their expertise in the logistics and transportation industry has been invaluable to us, allowing us to develop various solutions rapidly such as Cargo2ZERO, and increase our customer base – for example our eBooking numbers increased +457% in 2022 compared to 2021” says Matt Petot, CEO of CargoAi. “As an independent start-up, we are tactically aligned with CargoTech’s long-term perspective to sustainable growth and stability which is radically different from VC funded startups.”

Freight forwarders can already go ahead to utilize the functions of Cargo2ZERO in their standard booking flow on CargoMART or provide list of AWBs to CargoAi’s team, and airlines can enquire with CargoAi about white-labelling this solution to meet their own sustainable targets.


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