GKN Aerospace presents its first terrestrial demonstrator with a liquid hydrogen gas system.

This demonstrator of an end-to-end liquid hydrogen aircraft fuel system, including a liquid hydrogen refueling, cryogenic hydrogen storage and conditioning device, was completed in 12 months.

Study the feasibility of using a liquid hydrogen fuel source to increase the autonomy of a drone dedicated to SAR missions

GKN Aerospace has successfully achieved a major milestone by delivering a ground-based demonstrator of an aircraft liquid hydrogen fuel system. The demonstrator was designed, built and tested in collaboration with Filton Systems Engineering as part of the Safe Flight project funded by Innovate UK. The objective of the project was to study the feasibility of using a liquid hydrogen fuel source to increase the autonomy of a concept drone dedicated to search and rescue (SAR) missions.

The performance of the fuel system was verified by attaching it to a proton exchange membrane fuel cell.

The project allowed GKN Aerospace to understand and address many of the safety concerns raised by the introduction of this new fuel. Integrated fuel tank design and distribution solutions were developed, including vaporization and conditioning of liquid hydrogen. The performance of the fuel system was verified by attaching it to a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell, representative of the type that could be installed in a future zero-emission aircraft. The project demonstrated successful storage and management of liquid hydrogen, delivering hydrogen to the fuel cell supply system at the temperature and pressure required at a variety of electrical loads typical of a drone search and rescue mission.

Liquid hydrogen refueling and storage, cryogenic gas conditioning and distribution were demonstrated

Key project deliverables include safe system design development, manufacturing knowledge, operational knowledge for liquid hydrogen fuel systems, hydrogen fuel system test data, and an adaptable test bench suitable for further component studies and hydrogen subsystems. Max Brown VP Technology GKN Aerospace says: ”We are very pleased with the outcome of this project and believe that we are very much at the forefront of exploring the challenges in this area. In a single end-to-end test environment, the team demonstrated liquid hydrogen refueling and storage, cryogenic gas conditioning and delivery, and the use of PEM fuel cells to generate hydrogen. ‘electricity’; Brown continued, “While the focus of this work was on a small-scale platform, the achievement is highly aligned with other work we are doing in programs like H2GEAR, where we provide propulsion technologies focused on the possibility of zero-emission flight.

The Safe Flight project has positioned GKN Aerospace for larger and more complex demonstrations of hydrogen-powered aircraft in the future, as the company continues its mission to become “the most reliable and sustainable partner in the sky”.

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