Aurata partner in game-changing fuel-cell drone propulsion study
Project HyFan, funded by a £550K grant from Innovate UK, will develop and de-risk the key technology bricks required for an integrated hydrogen fuel cell propulsor designed for the commercial drone market. Led by Greenjets, the team includes Bramble Energy, TOffeeAM and Aurata Technologies. The 18-month programme will culminate in a ground and flight test for an integrated hydrogen propulsor that will then be commercialised in follow-on work.
The project aims to address two problems with today’s fuel cell (FC) systems for commercial drones. The first is that they occupy a large fraction of the aircraft payload volume (FC + balance of plant), and this reduces the commercial potential of the drones that would otherwise carry more useful payload. The second is that the aircraft need a long downtime to repair, maintain and overhaul the fuel cell system in case of any fault or failure.
The unique solution in the project is to closely couple the fuel cell stack, balance of plant, heat exchangers and the propulsion system. The goal is to free up payload volume (target: 20-30L) and significantly reduce aircraft downtime (target: 6X). In addition to Greenjets’ expertise in-propulsor technology, it will work closely with Bramble Energy on their unique PCBFC™ technology, TOffeeAM on their AI led heat exchanger design process and Aurata on thermal integration challenges.
The potential market opportunity for the product is considerable with the drone market growing at over 20% CAGR and the consortium has assembled 4 early adopter customers who will drive the key project requirements. In the process of realising this significant revenue opportunity between 2025 and 2030, the HyFan consortium will bring several benefits to the UK in the form of jobs along with the development of the UK supply chain in hydrogen technologies.
James Baxter, Technical Director at Aurata, said “We are delighted to be part of this innovative consortium pushing the boundaries of fuel cell propulsion. As specialists in thermal systems, the tools developed in HyFan will allow Aurata to support our customers by increasing the speed and quality of systems architecture and component specification for fuel cell systems in novel applications.”
Dr. Guido Monterzino, CTO at Greenjets, said, ‘’Our customers want quiet, efficient and long-range propulsion systems. With this project, we will develop a one-of-a-kind fuel cell propulsor that will also increase their payload volume and reduce their maintenance downtime’
Dr Vidal Bharath, CCO at Bramble said, “Bramble’s innovative PCBFC™ fuel cell technology and its completely customisable nature means we can deliver a design alongside our consortium partners that will address the current issues including payload, making fuel cells a viable solution for commercial drones.”
Marco Pietropaoli, CEO at TOffeeAM, said “It is great to be involved in this project to advance the use of fuel cells in the aircraft industry. It is a perfect scenario to demonstrate how the engineering approach must evolve with technology and how the use of innovative generative design software such as TOffeeAM can help solve complex design challenges.”
About Innovate UK:
Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. Following funding award, Innovate UK manages the programme, from contracting projects, through to completion. Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas, including those from the UK’s world-class research base. UKRI is the national funding agency investing in science and research in the UK. Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UKRI brings together the 7 Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England.
Greenjets (http://www.greenjets.com/) is spearheading the adoption of the advanced air mobility market (drones, air taxis and regional aircraft) through the development of quiet, safe, efficient and cost-effective electric engines. The team has a combined experience of over 300 years from Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, GE Aviation and Formula 1. It is now selling products for the drone industry with payloads upto 100 kgs with the goal to eventually power air taxis and regional aircraft in the next 5 years.
About Bramble Energy:
Bramble Energy is powering a Net Zero world – today – and is proving to be a real game changer in solving key challenges in the production of hydrogen fuel cells including: lead times, up-front investment, manufacturing cost and scalability. Co-founded in 2016 by Dr Tom Mason in the research labs at Imperial College of London and University College of London, Bramble Energy through revolutionary fuel cell design and manufacturing techniques, has developed the unique printed circuit board (PCB) fuel cell – the PCBFC™. A patent protected fuel cell that can be manufactured in almost all printed circuit board (PCB) factories worldwide. Bramble is fast becoming the leading hydrogen fuel cell provider for a cleaner and more sustainable world. Home for Bramble Energy is a state-of-the-art facility in Crawley, UK, where they have launched their portable power product range and are developing their high-power density, liquid-cooled fuel cell systems under the same scalable low-cost technology platform.
For more information about Bramble Energy visit: https://www.brambleenergy.com/
TOffeeAM (www.toffeeam.co.uk) is a company developing state-of-the-art generative design software for engineering. The company’s mission is to make engineers go further and faster by offering a unique software solution for designing and optimising engineering components and systems. Its cloud-based, multi-physics, simulation-driven software automates the design process by employing advanced algorithms and optimisation techniques, generating designs that maximise performance while meeting all of your design and manufacturing constraints, in minutes and hours rather than weeks and months. With TOffeeAM, engineers can streamline the design process, achieve superior results, and push the boundaries of what’s possible in engineering innovation.
About Aurata Technologies:
Aurata specialise in bringing holistic thinking to efficiently solve complex multisystem problems for clients through our expertise in strategy, simulation and engineering. We offer services ranging from strategic advice through to vehicle and thermal simulation, systems specification, and problem mitigation. We are a small team of professional engineers with several decades of consulting expertise for global automotive, marine and power system clients. We are independent and technology agnostic with our experience including fuel cell, battery and engine systems.
Learn more at: https://auratatech.com