The World’s First Hydrogen-Powered Helicopter Is Coming


New projects are being launched on a constant basis. To name an example, Piasecki Aircraft Corporation has announced that it is teaming up with HyPoint to create its Piasecki eVTOL PA-890. This is notable because HyPoint’s contribution is a hydrogen fuel-cell system, meaning that this will be the first hydrogen-powered manned helicopter in the world. Hydrogen-powered aircraft are not a new thing. A number of companies have come up with experimental designs. Unfortunately, hydrogen-powered aircraft have been held back by much the same factor as other electric-powered aircraft, which is to say, existing power systems aren’t powerful enough. However, a huge amount of effort is being made to improve on those existing power systems, with the result that HyPoint and other companies are coming up with more capable designs than ever before. Supposedly, HyPoint’s fuel cell system is multiple times better than its predecessors. Moreover, it promises to cut operating costs for helicopters by as much as 50 percent, which is quite a claim to say the least. The Piasecki eVTOL PA-890 is very much a work-in-progress. So far, Piasecki Aircraft Corporation has stated that it has confirmed the viability of HyPoint’s fuel cell system through lab tests. Those lab tests must have been promising because said company has also mentioned interest in a whole line of hydrogen-powered aircraft. Currently, the Piasecki eVTOL PA-890 is expected to come out in 2025, though if everything works out as these companies expect, it might be followed by other hydrogen-powered aircraft not too long after that.

Why Is There Interest in a Hydrogen-Powered Helicopter?

Some people might be curious why there is interest in a hydrogen-powered helicopter. If so, they should know that hydrogen is considered to be a renewable source of energy. Something that is perhaps unsurprising considering that it is the single most common element that can be found in the entire universe. To get an idea of just how common hydrogen happens to be, it is useful to mention some of the sources of hydrogen. First, fossil fuels are made out of hydrocarbons, which are compounds made out of hydrogen and carbon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this means that it is possible to produce hydrogen by releasing it from hydrocarbons. Something that sees a huge amount of use in the present time. Second, sunlight is a critical source of energy for the world, with the result that it sees use in countless contexts. This includes serving as a source of energy for the production of hydrogen through various means. Unfortunately, solar energy has the same issue in this context that it has in other contexts, which is to say, its availability can be quite limited. Even ignoring how most places have a cycle of day and night, there are some places where a reliance on sunlight is extra-problematic because of less than ideal climate. Third, biomass is a neat-sounding term for organic material coming from animals and plants. As such, it includes a number of very familiar materials such as wood, waste, and energy crops. Conveniently, biomass can be used for a wide range of processes, which include those that result in the creation of hydrogen.

What this means

Better still, the creation of biomass uses up carbon dioxide. Something that is seen as more and more important because of the greenhouse effect. Fourth, wind is a potential source of energy for the processes that produce hydrogen as well. However, it has the same issue as sunlight, which is to say, it isn’t 100 percent reliable because it isn’t always available. Even so, there is plenty of interest in technologies that can make up for these issues because while wind isn’t always available, it is something that can be found in very wide range of places to say the least. Fifth, every other source of renewable energy can be used to generate hydrogen. This is because electricity can be used to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. Potable water is a scarce resource in many places. Fortunately, there is progress being made on practical methods of using saltwater for this purpose. Most of the planet is covered in saltwater, meaning that the chances of us running low on saltwater anytime soon aren’t exactly what anyone would consider to be high.

Regardless, this means that if people can make hydrogen-powered vehicles practical, they can open up a huge swathe of possibilities. Currently, electric vehicles are still behind their conventional counterparts. However, anyone who has been paying attention will realize just how much better modern electric vehicles are when compared with their predecessors from just a decade ago, thus revealing the huge leaps that have been made in such technologies. Moreover, there is a common belief that more leaps can be made, meaning that hydrogen-powered vehicles as well as other electric vehicles promise to become more capable still. As for why this is important, the gist of it is that electric vehicles are seen as a potential solution to the problem of mitigating climate change without changing the modern way of life beyond recognition. Electric vehicles can be powered using renewable sources of energy. In contrast, their conventional counterparts cannot because fossil fuels are called fossil fuels for good reason, meaning that they cannot be created in a time frame that matters for human civilization. Furthermore, the hope is that electric vehicles will be powered using sources of energy that won’t continue emitting huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Those gases trap more sunlight in the atmosphere rather than letting it escape back into space after reflecting off of the ground, thus causing the planet to heat up as a whole. Yes, there are parts of the planet that could become more hospitable because of this. Unfortunately, others will become less so. Even more problematically, change comes with inherent costs, which can mean some very ugly consequences when it occurs upon such an enormous scale. By this point in time, it is no longer possible to prevent climate change altogether, but it is still possible to reduce its extent, thus reducing the damages that will be done. Thanks to that, electric vehicles are expected to become more and more important in the times to come.

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