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Vertical Flight Society to host first hydrogen aviation symposium in the U.S.

The Vertical Flight Society (VFS) is expanding its support of electric aviation by hosting a symposium focused on the use of hydrogen fuel cells for aviation applications — believed to be the first event of its kind in the U.S.

Vertical Flight Society Piasecki hydrogen
An executive from Piasecki Aircraft will be giving a keynote presentation at the first annual H2-Aero Symposium and Workshop later this month. Pictured is a Piasecki PA-890 hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric compound helicopter. Piasecki Aircraft Corp. Image

VFS is organizing two days of discussions and presentations, as well as a third day of tours of the Shell heavy-duty hydrogen refueling station at the Port of Long Beach. The group is calling this event the first annual H2-Aero Symposium and Workshop, slated to take place from March 29 to 31 in Long Beach, California.

The preliminary agenda shows keynote presentations by executives from aircraft developers Airbus, Bartini, Piasecki Aircraft and ZeroAvia, as well as hydrogen companies Shell, Plug Power, Universal Hydrogen and ZEV Station.

Government representatives, international hydrogen aviation developers, academia, and others will also contribute toward the discussions at the event.

“VFS recognized in early 2020 that hydrogen fuel cells were nearing the point of viability for small electric aircraft, so we formed an H2 eVTOL Council to study the potential,” said Mike Hirschberg, executive director of VFS. “We’ve now initiated the H2-Aero Team to build on the momentum and look toward a demonstration project that could help accelerate the transition to hydrogen in aviation.”

In 2014, VFS held what it believes to be the world’s first public meeting on eVTOL aircraft. Since then, the organization has expanded its support to include eSTOL and eCTOL aircraft, acknowledging the “blurring of lines” between rotorcraft and small airplanes.

“Nearly all of the eVTOL aircraft developers are targeting FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] certification as a Part 23 ‘small airplane,’ and nearly all of the supporting technologies are highly common, whether developed for eVTOL, eSTOL, and eCTOL,” the organization stated in a press release. “This is also true for hydrogen fuel cells powerplants for smaller Part 23 aircraft.”

VFS said it sees a pivotal moment in aviation for vertical and horizontal flight aircraft, believing hydrogen fuel cell technology could provide future advanced air mobility aircraft with clean, sustainable energy, as well as address some of the issues battery-electric and hybrid-electric energy systems pose.

“However, there are many challenges for use in aircraft, including the cost, weight, volume, and complexity, as well as generating the hydrogen and transporting it to the point of need, affordably and without burning carbon fuels to do so,” VFS said.

These are the discussions that will take place at the H2-Aero Symposium and Workshop later this month. More information is available on VFS’s website.

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