EXCLUSIVE: Hybrid Air Vehicles teams up with AECOM to develop hydrogen supply infrastructure for fuel cell airships in the UK

Hybrid Air Vehicles’ ambitions of flying zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell-powered airships in UK skies by the end of the decade have taken a step forward today, with the firm confirming it has tapped consulting specialist AECOM to advise on developing hydrogen supply infrastructure in the UK.

Engineering consultancy giant AECOM is to provide Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) with end-to-end infrastructure services to facilitate operation of the air ships, which the UK developer claims can generate 90 per cent fewer emissions than other aircraft by using electric and fuel-burning engines alongside a helium hull to provide buoyant lift.

The technology offers significant potential capacity for carrying passengers or moving cargo, while the aerodynamic lift generated by the helium in the airship’s Hull unlocks “powerful efficiency” without the need for the significant infrastructure associated with other aircraft, the developer claims.

HAV aims to bring its first hybrid ‘Airlander’ into service in 2026, with a view to then further developing the aircraft to run entirely on hydrogen fuel cell technology by 2030, which would pave the way for zero-emission flight.

In future, HAV believes its aircraft have the potential to carry battery and solar cell technologies at a scale required to achieve ultra-low and zero carbon operations.

“The relationship between AECOM and Hybrid Air Vehicles is centred in our shared commitment to delivering net zero,” said Tom Grundy, Hybrid Air Vehicles’ CEO. “We urgently need to reduce emissions in aviation, so we will work with AECOM and Airlander operators to make zero emission flight for 100 passengers or ten tons of cargo a reality within the decade.”

A memorandum of understanding between the two firms announced today “sets out the basis and scope of a long-term infrastructure partnership”, according to AECOM, which is set to provide advice on hydrogen supply infrastructure and transit interchange design to support HAV’s airships.

The two companies said they would work together with HAV’s customers to develop the infrastructure to operate Airlander, including for hydrogen on site for the hybrid-electric and all-electric models, in addition to collaborating on a manufacturing facility for the aircraft.

Colin Wood, AECOM’s Europe and India chief executive, said its infrastructure work with HAV could help enable the transition to net zero aviation.

“Just a few months ago, speakers at COP26 called on industry to develop the solutions so desperately needed to limit global warming,” Wood added. “Whilst there is no room for complacency, I’m proud of the work AECOM is doing to tackle this challenge head on by taking bold steps to advance new and emerging sectors which will help us achieve net zero.”

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