Australia’s first hydrogen aircraft flight set for 2024

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https://www.ses.ie/IMOVE Cooperative Research Centre, in collaboration with Brisbane-based company Stralis Aircraft and QUT, has embarked on a pioneering research project which will develop a key building block required to integrate and retrofit Australia’s first hydrogen propulsion system into an aircraft. Scheduled for its maiden flight in 2024, this initiative marks a significant milestone in the country’s journey towards sustainable aviation.

Stralis aims to showcase hydrogen-electric aircraft to world leaders and global business elites should Australia succeed in its bid to co-host COP2026. The aircraft could also be used to transport athletes around Queensland during the Brisbane Olympics in 2032.

The project, which is at the cutting edge of technology and environmental stewardship, aims to integrate a hydrogen-electric propulsion system (HEPS) into a Beechcraft Bonanza A36 aircraft. This development is not just a technological breakthrough but also a crucial step in addressing the environmental challenges facing the aviation industry, one of the hardest sectors to abate in terms of carbon emissions.

Stralis, a company rich in innovative culture, is leading the development of the HEPS and aircraft retrofit. The program is supported by the Hydrogen Flight Alliance, that brings together key players in the Australian aviation and green hydrogen industries to make hydrogen electric flight possible. The company’s roadmap includes retrofitting a Beech 1900 aircraft and designing a new 50-seat aircraft, positioning Stralis as a potential global leader in sustainable aviation technology.

Stralis’s role extends beyond providing the architectural details of the HEPS and aircraft. Its team, leveraging the Google X and Airbus background of CEO and Co-Founder Bob Criner, brings a wealth of technical expertise and real-world insights, ensuring the project’s alignment with industry standards and future market needs.

QUT’s involvement is crucial in modelling, implementing, and testing the system design and performance. The team’s experience with hydrogen, fuel cells, and power electronic systems can be directly applied to this project.

The university will also use the project’s outcomes for broader research into hydrogen-based energy systems and incorporate these findings into their educational programs, particularly in the Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical & Renewable Power) and Master of Renewable Energy programs.

This project represents a significant investment in the future of aviation, with implications far beyond the initial prototype. The outcomes will inform short-term and long-term technology development programs, including the Bonanza A36 technology demonstrator program and future aircraft product programs. It’s a venture that promises to redefine aircraft propulsion systems and set new benchmarks in sustainable aviation.

IMOVE CRC Managing Director Ian Christensen said: “The collaboration between iMOVE, Stralis, and QUT exemplifies the power of partnership in driving innovation. By combining expertise in research, technology, and industry knowledge, this project is poised to make a significant impact on Australia’s aviation industry and contribute to global efforts in reducing carbon emissions.”

Stralis CEO Bob Criner said: “Our vision at Stralis is to lead the aviation industry into a sustainable future. We’re not just creating hydrogen aircraft; we’re redefining what air travel can be – cleaner, more efficient, and fundamentally eco-friendly. Our approach is unique – not just focusing on the technology, but also on how it can be rapidly implemented and scaled. This is how we’re going to make a substantial difference in reducing aviation’s carbon footprint rapidly.”

QUT project lead Associate Professor Geoff Walker, for the School of Electrical Engineering and Robotics, said: “Fuel cells and similar technologies at the heart of hydrogen electric propulsion systems are still evolving.  Creating a detailed, accurate simulation model will allow Stralis to make rapid design and operational choices, trade-offs and optimisations vital in this fast-moving project.”

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