two man in small plane
Rob Postma (Airbus Nederland) and Wouter van der Linden (AeroDelft) on their way to emission-free flying. (Photo: AeroDelft)

AeroDelft and aircraft manufacturer Airbus are to collaborate on 'the biggest challenge in aviation': emission-free flying on hydrogen. They announced this recently.

Lees in het Nederlands

On 12 October 2022, Wouter van der Linden, team manager of student team AeroDelft, and Rob Postma, CEO of Airbus Netherlands, signed a research partnership on flying on hydrogen.

‘The agreement highlights Airbus' commitment to a CO2-free aviation sector,' the press release said. 'The collaboration with a student team ensures the exchange of knowledge between industry and students.’

How does something like this work? Delta called Joseph Michaels, bachelors’s student in aerospace engineering and chief of partnerships at AeroDelft. The connection is lousy, as he is travelling by train to a major hydrogen exhibition in Bremen.

Michaels: “We are working with people from Airbus on different systems. An important part is the liquid hydrogen system. In our education, you don't hear much about hydrogen, so we are now learning together with industry, our future employers. People often move on to the industry from such a project. Apart from knowledge transfer, it is then also about introducing crazy out of the box ideas within the aviation industry, which is by itself quite conservative.”

AeroDelft has stated that they only want to work with green hydrogen, derived from sustainably generated electricity. Does the same apply to Airbus?

“I cannot comment on that. I can confirm, however, that AeroDelft remains committed to using green hydrogen.”

You have announced a flight with a 1:3 scale model powered by gaseous hydrogen for next spring. How is that progressing? 

“That is moving forward. The electric drive on gaseous hydrogen with a fuel cell is now functioning on the workbench. It is further a matter of building it into the drone and testing.”

For the next step, a 2-seater hydrogen-powered aircraft, you have to get permission from the Dutch Civil Aviation Authority (Rijksluchtvaartdienst) I assume.

How will that go? 
“We are in talks with the Transport Authority (IL&T) and we are opting for admission as an experimental aircraft.  Admission of hydrogen technology in aviation is a topic that five of our engineers are currently working on. Personally, I would have preferred that we could focus on the technology and let industry pick up the certification. After all, we are not making products, we are pioneering a clean technology.”

Delta previously wrote: