Regenerative PEM Fuel Cell Powered 4-Seater Aircraft Project

PROJECT OVERVIEW

The initial purpose of this AER Technologies project is to demonstrate, by the use of complete design and extensive experimental prototyping, the feasibility of a PEM Fuel Cell powered aircraft, and thus design a light reconnaissance/family airplane. The secondary phase of the project also involves the incorporation of photovoltaic cells for recycling of the water produced by the fuel cell converting it back to hydrogen gas and oxygen to constitute a ‘regenerative fuel cell cycle’. This will essentially increase the aircraft endurance and fuelling and de-fuelling time periods. The design will allow deriving and developing a number of technological requirements for the use of fuel cell system as the primary power plant. The design also involves the integration of the fuel cell system with a solar powerplant and dealing with the effects of fuel cell and cryogenic liquid hydrogen storage on aircraft design.

The entire aircraft, including the power plant adapted to the mission requirement is being designed, including the air feeding device and cooling device. Liquid hydrogen storage and related fuel system is also being studied.

POSSIBLE APPLICATIONS

  1. Short range economical business travel and light cargo applications
  2. Reconnaissance and surveillance (strictly civilian applications only)
  3. Meteorological, weather management and other low speed applications
  4. Tourism and Recreational Flying and other leisure purposes

CURRENT STATUS

As of now, the conceptual design of the fuel cell powered aircraft (without the photovoltaic cells) has been achieved to fulfill reconnaissance missions with a payload of 400 Kilograms. The resulting design of the reconnaissance electric aircraft is hybrid between fixed and rotary wing aircraft. It combines a cabin design inspired from helicopter cockpits and a power plant located in the fuselage with a wing typical of low speed applications.

Our project team has collaborated with The University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES), Dehradun, India for the initial design and development of the project and to develop a proof of concept for further large scale funding. While the manpower and infrastructure are now available, the initial research capital for the development of the scaled proof of concept is being sought. UPES shares the same passion and enthusiasm for carbon-free air-transportation for the future.

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In addition to the UPES, many individual consultants and experts from around the globe are collaborating in the development of the project from countries like Germany, Britain and the US. The project is taking shape of an international research taking place on Indian soil and is one of the pioneering researches in this area.

The current design will need extensive experimental prototyping related to the aircraft — in its entirety and the various modules like Liquid Hydrogen Storage, Storage Tank, Cryogenic stress and strains, cooling and oxygen feeding system, fuelling and de-fuelling and others. The solar power module and the water recycling electrolysis module are also to be integrated in the second phase.

Many design related data have had to be assumed. Setting up agreements with electric equipment manufacturers and Fuel Cell manufacturers interested in aerospace applications, which would probably include confidentiality clauses, will help accurate data to be used as also facilitate the manufacturing of the prototype aircraft.

AREAS OF POSSIBLE CONNECTIONS

A. PEM Fuel Cell Research and Hydrogen Storage:

  1. PEM FC and SOFC System design and simulation.
  2. Fuel Cell System manufacturing and customization.
  3. Aviation/Automotive applications of Fuel Cells.
  4. Design, simulation and fabrication of cryogenic Hydrogen Fuel tanks.
  5. Liquid Hydrogen generation/supply ground station, storage and fueling/defueling.

B. Experimental/Unconventional Aircraft Design:

  1. Experimental/Unconventional aircraft design.
  2. Simulation and modelling.
  3. Scaled model preparation and prototyping.
  4. Wind tunnel tests, final prototyping and test flights.
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C. Solar Power Automotive Applications:

  1. Automotive/aviation applications of solar power generation and storage.
  2. Integration of solar power and fuel cell systems.
  3. Simulation, modelling and testing and experimentation of the solar modules.

D. Regenerative Hydrogen Production – Water Electrolysis:

  1. Hydrogen production by molecular dissociation of water.
  2. Design and simulation of the electrolysis system.
  3. Integration with Solar Power system and the Fuel Cell system.

POSSIBLE COLLABORATION AND AFTERTHOUGHTS

As mentioned above, after the collaboration with The University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun, the challenges of manpower and infrastructure have been sorted. The challenge that lies in front of us is the research capital of the order of Five Crore Indian Rupees (an estimated value) for the initial phase and for producing the proof of concept (scaled). Once that stage is crossed, the project can go into full scale prototyping and funding in which many state departments of India and abroad have shown deep interest.

It is a well known fact that a hydrogen economy is the only possible viable option to eliminate the fossil dependence of the entire transportation as well as power industry. Green hydrogen generation is also a part of the same economy, which may also be addressed as a separate module of this project.

Aviation industry is facing severe challenges due to fossil dependence and consequently significant amount of research is being carried out worldwide to improve specific power of fuel cells so as to apply the technology to aircraft. It is thus the need of the hour for all organizations as well as individuals working in this field to come together and propose a joint solution for the aviation and transportation industry in dire straits.

Our team is ready to take the onus of pioneering this air-transportation revolution. We need your cooperation, support and our joint efforts for the same. For any further details on possible technical and/or commercial collaborations, joint ventures or product inquiries please feel free to contact us.

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