Natilus, which is designing and developing new autonomous blended-wing body (BWB) cargo aircraft, and ZeroAvia have announced a strategic partnership to jointly develop hydrogen-electric engines for the Natilus Kona cargo aircraft. ZeroAvia’s ZA600 will be the sole hydrogen-electric propulsion source offered for the novel Kona short-haul feeder UAV, with the partnership focused on delivering zero-emission and lower cost operations.
The Natilus Kona, with its revolutionary BWB design, offers increased volume for hydrogen storage, potentially transforming the air cargo delivery industry to one with low-cost, low carbon emissions, while also extending flight range. The partnership with ZeroAvia will leverage their expertise in hydrogen-electric powertrain technology with Natilus’ unique design to create a scalable, long-range, and zero-emission air cargo delivery solution for the entire industry.
Natilus recently validated the performance of the BWB design with flight testing of a quarter-scale Kona prototype aircraft, following three years of extensive wind-tunnel testing, while ZeroAvia has now conducted eight test flights of its prototype ZA600, 600kW engine in a 19-seat testbed aircraft.
Aleksey Matyushev, Co-founder and CEO of Natilus, said: “Natilus has a long-term commitment to being a responsible steward of our environment, instituting practices that can protect the environment through continual improvements to save fuel and water, reduce waste, air emissions, noise, and material consumption. The Natilus-ZeroAvia partnership goes further, bringing the talents and innovations of the two companies together to deliver much needed innovation in the air cargo delivery industry and multiple solutions for our customers.”
Val Miftakhov, Founder and CEO of ZeroAvia, said: “Given Natilus’ impressive order book and corresponding technology development, working together on integrating the ZA600 as a line-fit engine for Kona can multiply the emissions and costs benefits that are already interesting cargo operators. We all depend on air cargo operators, and some communities depend on them absolutely, so improving the economics and environmental impacts of these operations while increasing service levels is a massive opportunity.”
ZeroAvia has demonstrated a prototype of the ZA600 with world-first flight testing of a retrofitted 19-seat aircraft in flight with its prototype. The company has twice held the record for demonstrating the largest hydrogen fuel cell aircraft and has struck several important agreements with airframe OEMs relevant to ZA600 – including Textron Aviation, manufacturer of the Cessna Caravan, and private aircraft manufacturer Otto Aviation.
Natilus currently has more than $6.8 billion in order commitments, and 460+ aircraft in pre-orders, from companies including major airlines and integrators: Ameriflight, Volatus Aerospace, Flexport, Astral, Aurora International, and Dymond. The company is now working on construction of a full-scale Kona technology demonstrator, which will have a wingspan of 85 feet (26 meters).