ZeroAvia and Natilus have announced a strategic partnership to jointly develop hydrogen-electric engines for the Natilus Kona blended-wing-body (BWB) cargo aircraft. ZeroAvia’s ZA600 will be the sole hydrogen-electric propulsion source offered for the novel Kona short-haul feeder UAV, with the partnership focused on delivering zero-emission and lower cost operations.

Natilus recently validated the performance of the BWB design with flight testing of a quarter-scale Kona prototype aircraft, following three years of extensive wind-tunnel testing, while ZeroAvia has now conducted eight test flights of its prototype ZA600, 600kW engine in a 19-seat testbed aircraft.

ZeroAvia has already commenced flight testing of a 600kW prototype hydrogen-electric engine, which supports the development and certification of two initial engine classes: a 300-mile range in 9–19 seat aircraft by 2025, and up to 700-mile range in 40–80 seat aircraft by 2027. Based in the US and the UK, ZeroAvia has already secured experimental certificates for three prototype aircraft from the CAA and FAA.

In support of this effort, ZeroAvia also recently announced the creation of a hydrogen production facility at Birmingham Airport (BHX), featuring an on-site hydrogen production aircraft refueling facility, with the potential for multi-modal applications.  

Subject to funding, planning, and regulatory permissions being secured, the ambition would be to use the pioneering plant to support early flight demonstrations, and also refuel road vehicles, potentially including local buses. In advance of this, BHX has commenced talks with a major automotive company about trialing hydrogen buses and cars on its airfield.  

Why it’s important: The Natilus Kona, with its novel BWB design, offers increased volume for hydrogen storage, potentially transforming the air cargo delivery industry to one with low-cost, low carbon emissions, while also extending flight range. The partnership with ZeroAvia will leverage their expertise in hydrogen-electric powertrain technology with Natilus’ unique design to potentially create a scalable, long-range, and zero-emission air cargo delivery solution for the entire industry.


Posted by Naish Gaubatz