Beyond Aero claims to have completed France’s first manned flights of an electric aircraft powered by hydrogen.

The Toulouse-based start-up flew a modified twin-cockpit GI Aviation Spyl-XL ultralight – named Bleriot after the pioneering French aviator – from Gap-Tallard airfield in southeast France over a two-week period from 5 February. It released details on 27 February.


Source: Beyond Aero

Beyond Aero conducted the flights from Gap-Tallard airfield

The company joins a select group of developers who have flown hydrogen powered aircraft. They include Germany’s H2Fly, Universal Hydrogen in the USA, and ZeroAvia in the UK. However, Beyond Aero claims to be the only one aiming to build its own aircraft, rather than simply demonstrating a powertrain.

Beyond Aero’s Bleirot prototype completed 10 take-offs and two “complete flights”, reaching a climb speed of 59.4kt (110km/h) and an altitude of 2,300ft above sea level, albeit that Gap-Tallard’s runway is at an elevation of almost 2,000ft. The company has not disclosed the duration of any of the flights.

At take-off, two-thirds of the power to the single propeller was delivered by a hydrogen fuel cell, and the remainder from batteries.

Beyond Aero says it wanted to prove the effectiveness of its hydrogen-electric powertrain – which it exhibited at last June’s Paris air show – before it moves on to design and certificate an eight-seat, hydrogen-powered business aircraft, the Beyond Aero One, which it intends to have on the market by 2030.

The Bleriot prototype stores 1.2kg (2.6lb) of gaseous hydrogen in three tanks at 340 bar, generating a maximum electrical power of 85kW. The fuel cell sits next to the pilot, in the space normally occupied by the right-hand seat.

Beyond Aero’s Hugo Tarle, co-founder and chief technology officer, admits that the “megawatt scale” power required for a Pilatus PC-24-sized business aircraft compared with a single-propeller ultralight is “on a different scale”.

However, he says “the big technical choices are the same”, including the fuel cell compressor, electric motor and fuel cell powered by gaseous hydrogen in concert with batteries. “We needed to prove that every component can work together,” he says.


Source: Beyond Aero

The Bleriot demonstrator is an adapted two-seat, single-prop ultralight built by G1 Aviation

In 2021, Beyond Aero flew a 1.5m (4.9ft)-long, 3m-wingspan drone with a scaled-down version of its powertrain.

Tarle believes that hydrogen fuel cells will be a more effective method of powering sustainable aircraft of the future because relying totally on batteries entails a significant penalty on weight and range.

He also says there is a benefit in designing a clean-sheet aircraft around a proven hydrogen powertrain, rather than designing a hydrogen powertrain and retrofitting it to an existing platform.