GKN Aerospace has developed and delivered a ground-based demonstrator of a liquid hydrogen fuel system for a small aircraft – and has coupled a fuel cell stack to the design during tests.

Built in collaboration with Filton Systems Engineering, work on the demonstrator was funded by Innovate UK though the Safe Flight project, part of the Future Flight Challenge.

Watchdog SAR-c-GKN Aerospace

Source: GKN Aerospace

System was sized around unmanned air vehicle for search and rescue tasks

Its aim was to assess the feasibility of using a liquid hydrogen to increase the endurance of a concept unmanned air system (UAS) for search and rescue missions.

GKN carried out the testing of the system at Kemble airfield in Gloucestershire.

Areas of focus included the 100 litre (26USgal) fuel tank and distribution system, alongside vaporisation and conditioning of the liquid hydrogen – taking it from -253°C (-423°F) to ambient temperature. Performance of the system was verified by running a fuel cell stack using the stored hydrogen.

“The project demonstrated successful storage and management of liquid hydrogen, supplying the fuel cell power system with hydrogen at the required temperature and pressure over a range of electrical loads typical of a UAS search and rescue mission,” says GKN.

It sees the successful outcome of the project as key to other hydrogen-based research and development activities, including its H2GEAR fuel cell powertrain programme for regional aircraft applications.