Education on hydrogen use ‘critical to the rise of hydrogen aviation’

Avatar for Treena Hein and Drea HickmanBy Treena Hein and Drea Hickman | May 4, 2023

Estimated reading time 6 minutes, 45 seconds.

Dispelling misperceptions, industry education and building logistic capacity are the key issues that need to be addressed when it comes to hydrogen technology development to power the future of aviation, including eVTOL aircraft.

Born out of the eVTOL sector, HYSKY Society supports the use of hydrogen fuel cells, believing that electric propulsion is best achieved through this technology. Dabin Kim Photo

This is according to Danielle McLean, founder and CEO of HYSKY Society, the only organization in the U.S. focused on advancing hydrogen aviation.

The organization is a spinoff of the Vertical Flight Society’s (VFS) H2eVTOL Council, which was led by McLean and produced free webinars, now called HYSKY Monthly. Responding to consistent record attendance, she and VFS leader Mike Hirshberg agreed hydrogen aviation needed its own dedicated non-profit organization.

Born out of the eVTOL sector, McLean said HYSKY supports the use of hydrogen fuel cells, believing that electric propulsion is best achieved through this technology. Alternatively, HYSKY also supports hydrogen combustion, which is a non-electric method of using hydrogen that’s completely different from electric applications and has its own specific use cases.

“To help clarify the differences and highlight the fact these power methods are both effective for achieving decarbonization, HYSKY is excited to announce the development of a hydrogen aviation curriculum,” McLean said. “This will be available at every education level, and will begin with live in-person classes presented by the original authors at upcoming aviation events, simultaneously released in online format.”

Eliminating barriers

While the course is for the entire hydrogen aviation industry, its eVTOL focus will be extensive. McLean explained that according to Matt Moran of Moran Innovation, NASA has been using hydrogen combustion in the space shuttle program for decades, as fuel cell technology is relatively new and not yet completely accepted in aerospace. To reconcile this, she said the sector must begin educating.

She said HYSKY wants everyone to understand the differences between combustion and electric propulsion by sharing examples that are easy to comprehend.

“The misinformation related to hydrogen is hindering its potential to transform our lives,” she said. “For example, hydrogen did not cause the Hindenburg to blow up, but that is still the first response I hear when approaching this topic. We must get past these misconceptions in order for this amazing little molecule to lead us to a carbon-free future.”

While hydrogen fuel cells may sound complex, McLean said HYSKY’s hydrogen curriculum will make this technology digestible for everyone.

“Once the technology is understood, progress will be exponential,” she added. “Hydrogen’s capabilities are endless and useful in aviation and beyond. Getting public perception aligned with this reality is the prerequisite for developing standards of use.”

In McLean’s view, the second hurdle to widespread hydrogen use in aviation is logistics. There are numerous producers and transporters in hydrogen, she said, but they don’t have a presence in the aviation industry, and conversely, aviation industry experts haven’t been addressing use cases for hydrogen until now. Having attended aviation conferences for many years, McLean recalled that hydrogen wasn’t mentioned three years ago, but this year, nearly every session she sat in at VFS’s annual eVTOL symposium mentioned hydrogen.

During SAE International’s AeroTech Conference in March, Bob Pearce, associate administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at NASA, discussed hydrogen in his keynote address. McLean said HYSKY Society is excited significant progress is being made and predicts by the end of this year, the majority of eVTOL companies will be actively using hydrogen, or at least researching its use.

In what McLean calls “the beginning of the hydrogen age,” she sees HYSKY’s role as “critical to the rise of hydrogen aviation.” HYSKY is hosting what it expects to be the world’s largest hydrogen aviation event, bringing innovators in hydrogen technology together with emerging leaders from the aviation community in Grand Forks, North Dakota, from Oct. 10 to 11, 2023. HYSKY has teamed up with BBI International to host FLYING HY, which will be co-located with the annual UAS Summit & Expo.

“We have so much room to grow with hydrogen aviation, but we’re definitely on an exponential rise,” McLean said. “Paradigm shifting innovation doesn’t happen in aviation every day. This is an adventure we feel honored to be a part of, and we are acutely aware of the urgency for us to succeed. Decarbonization is a do or die endeavor. This is why we are at it everyday, and actively recruiting advocates and volunteers to change the world using this tiny molecule. Join the hydrogen aviation revolution at”

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