The team at Hybrid Air Vehicles are pioneering a future of zero-emissions air travel with Airlander. Airlander is designed to be the world’s largest, most efficient aircraft.

We like to talk about the future of flight all-year round, but on International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), we asked Toni Green, our Project Manager, to tell us more about her work leading on the electric propulsion strategy.

Tell us about your role at HAV.

As a Project Manager with a degree in Sustainable Product Design, working on Airlander is an enticing opportunity for me. In my role at HAV, I am lucky enough to not only be involved in the development of the aircraft, but also lead the electric propulsion strategy. This role has such breadth and depth: one moment talking with suppliers on technology timelines, the next discussing proposed regulatory requirements with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), right up to talking with UK Government on how we can ensure the UK leads the green aerospace revolution.

What technologies will HAV utilise to bring an all-electric aircraft to market by 2030?

Whilst Airlander will enter service with all-kerosene engines, many of the unique design attributes of the aircraft provide a significantly reduced certification and safety risk for the introduction of hydrogen propulsion, at scale, this decade. There is a lot of discussion in industry regarding the most appropriate sustainable fuel for use in aviation, and there is no one right answer. It is extremely dependent on the use case, on the investment appetite, and the desired longevity of the solution. Airlander will utilise liquid hydrogen and fuel cell technology to power electric motors. Research and modelling have shown this will provide us with the greatest system efficiencies, whilst maintaining our operational performance and with a long term fuel cost saving, delivering the optimum solution for our customers.

What makes Airlander unique?

Airlander is different by design: it’s hybrid aircraft technology combines the buoyancy of helium with an aerodynamic lifting wing shape to typically only uses up to 25% the energy of other aircraft. System volume and mass for electric propulsion is a limiting factor for much of existing aviation, however Airlander’s significantly reduced fuel burn enables us to adopt early, heavier technology, and our low altitude operations allow us to exploit existing plant. Coupled with this, fuel tanks located within the expansive hull mean we do not have to compromise cabin space for the extra storage requirements. These are some of the key factors that enable Airlander 10 to maintain the capability to carry 100 passengers or 10 tonnes of freight, without negative operational cost impact.

Tell us about the route to zero-emissions for Airlander.

Our route to zero emissions includes dual propulsion technology, which for Airlander means the combination of electric front engines whilst maintaining the kerosene engines at the rear. This configuration provides up to a 90% emissions reduction and enables us to make a significant impact with notably less risk. Why less risk? Airlander’s front and rear engines, even in an all-kerosene variant, have separate fuel systems and it is standard operating procedure for the vehicle to fly on just two engines. We anticipate having this configuration available to market from 2028, a timeline currently only forecast by the smaller sub 19 seat aircraft. This not only gives Airlander a substantial competitive advantage in sustainable aviation, but also provides the industry with invaluable learning opportunities for the deployment of this technology into more conventional aircraft, whose transition to sustainable fuels is far more challenging. It is our plan for Airlander 10 to be available as an all-electric aircraft by 2030, taking us to zero emissions.

This is just the start of our journey: Airlander benefits from efficiencies of scale, so as we introduce larger aircraft into the product family, we see greater benefits from our hydrogen propulsion.

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