Swinburne’s Aerostructures Innovation Research Hub (AIR Hub) will develop and trial Australia’s first hydrogen propelled drone, thanks to a $1.3 million grant from the Australian Government’s Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships program.
The Hydrogen to the Skies (H22S) project will design and integrate a new hydrogen propulsion system into a large scale drone, working with Australian partners to help spearhead the commercial development of clean, zero emissions uncrewed air systems. The first prototype is expected to be completed before the end of 2023.
AIR Hub Director Dr Adriano Di Pietro said the project would have significant impacts for Australian industry, with the potential for millions of dollars in technology export revenue by the early 2030s.
“With long range, zero carbon emissions and a low noise footprint, hydrogen powered air vehicles represent the future of environmentally sustainable and socially responsible advanced air mobility,” Dr Di Pietro says.
“We are proud to be putting Australia at the cutting edge of this rapidly growing industry and improving outcomes for regional and remote communities across the country and the world”.
Regional impacts, international implications
Hydrogen propulsion is projected to be a critical turning point for advanced air mobility in regional Australia because it significantly extends range and payload options, compared with pure battery electric propulsion systems.
Clean and energy efficient propulsion systems, such as the ones developed by this project, are not only essential in improving regional and remote supply routes but also in meeting Australia’s decarbonisation targets.
The project will demonstrate how hydrogen propulsion can be commercially deployed, paving the way for the regulatory and operational developments needed to better connect regional communities.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research Professor Karen Hapgood said the project connects Swinburne’s research strengths in aerospace, hydrogen and sustainability to fast-track technology which has the capacity to improve the lives of millions.
“This next generation green technology will not only help decarbonise Australia’s aviation industry but will also have positive effects for our regional communities, emergency services and advanced manufacturing sector,” Professor Hapgood said.
“This funding will help grow Australia’s domestic clean aviation technology capabilities and ensure we can continue to create innovative technology for a better world.”
Emerging aviation technology
The project continues AIR Hub’s leading work on Small Hydrogen Aircraft Development & Evolution (SHADE) and commitment to bringing together industry, research and education to solve real-world problems and advance the next generation of engineers, scientists and technicians in clean aviation in Australia.
AIR Hub will work with industry partners to bring Hydrogen to the Skies to life, including collaborating with Swinburne’s Victorian Hydrogen Hub (VH2) on green hydrogen production and storage.
The project is envisaged as the first phase of a strategic aviation initiative to position Australia as an early entrant and global leader in hydrogen propulsion and the technology’s regional application.
Aligned with the National Emerging Aviation Technologies Policy and the National Hydrogen Strategy, the project aims to advance Australia’s goals in new technology development, regulation, safety management and compliance.