The initial $6.5 million agreement will culminate in the development of five 650kW hydrogen fuel cell systems for use in Piasecki's eVTOL PA-890 Compound Helicopter, which is expected to be the world's first manned hydrogen-powered helicopter.
The partnership's objective is to deliver a customizable, FAA-certified, zero carbon-emission hydrogen fuel cell system to the global eVTOL marketplace. The system will offer eVTOL makers 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% reduction in direct operating costs relative to turbine-powered rotorcraft.
Piasecki will gain exclusive license to the technology created as part of the partnership; 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 customizing it for use in their vehicles. Alternatively, eVTOL makers may choose to partner with HyPoint and Piasecki to develop a new system based on their specific needs.
HyPoint's revolutionary approach utilizes 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.
Winner of NASA's iTech Initiative
It will also boast up to 1,500 watt-hours per kilogram of energy density, enabling longer-distance journeys. 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 commercialization potential. HyPoint's aviation applications — including eVTOL, UAS, personal air vehicles, and electric aircraft — were considered to be especially innovative.
"The much-anticipated arrival of eVTOLs and similar aircraft has been severely hindered by the technical limitations of existing power systems," said Dr. Alex Ivanenko, founder and CEO of HyPoint. "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 multiplatform 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."
The global eVTOL market size is forecasted to grow from an estimated $74 million in 2025 to $860 million by 2030, according to new market research. In the first few months of 2021 alone, $5 billion of investments were announced in the sector to Archer Aviation, Eve, Joby Aviation, Lilium, and Vertical Aerospace. In January 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it was engaged with manufacturers of more than 15 eVTOL aircraft. EHang, Volocopter, Joby Aviation, and Lilium are among those who have signaled their intent to launch commercial passenger operations within the next three to five years. Other players include major aircraft companies such as Airbus and Boeing. The global hydrogen aircraft market is anticipated to grow from an estimated $27 billion in 2030 to $174 billion by 2040, according to Allied Market Research.
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.
"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," said John Piasecki, President and CEO of Piasecki.
Certification testing in 2024
"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 fulfill existing customer orders for up to 325 units starting in 2025."
About HyPoint: HyPoint is pioneering next-generation hydrogen fuel cell systems for aviation, aeronautics, and urban air mobility. The company's flagship turbo air-cooled hydrogen high-temperature proton-exchange membrane (HTPEM) fuel cell system offers zero carbon emissions and game-changing energy performance as a result of patented innovations including lightweight bipolar plates, a highly conductive corrosion-resistant coating, and an industry-first air cooling and oxygen supply system.
Together these technologies enable a lightweight, climate-independent, extended-lifespan fuel system and dramatically increase operational time and utilization rate while decreasing total cost of ownership by as much as 50% relative to turbine powered rotorcraft. The company was founded in Silicon Valley in 2019 and is backed by leading venture capital firms and individual investors.
About Piasecki Aircraft: Founded in 1955, Piasecki Aircraft Corporation (PiAC) is a pioneering research and development business specializing in design, fabrication and flight testing of experimental rotorcraft and unmanned air vehicles. PiAC is an "ideas company" with a heritage of innovation in rotorcraft and UAV development. Piasecki has been recognized with numerous awards, including the "National Medal of Technology," the Smithsonian's "Air and Space Achievement Award," and DoD's "Tibbett's Award" for small business innovation. Piasecki has developed and flown more than 25 different advanced VTOL and UAV aircraft.
PiAC leverages its unique skills and experience in rapid prototyping to develop and flight validate game changing technologies for our customers. PiAC maintains a cadre of highly skilled engineering, fabrication, and test personnel, with the tools and facilities to conduct aircraft design, development, qualification, and flight testing in accordance with our AS9100 certified quality system.
Rendering of the Piasecki PA-890 eVTOL Compound Helicopter, powered by the HyPoint turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell system