The world’s first ‘fully integrated, zero-emission sub-regional aircraft’ could enter service in 2026, after the partners behind an island-hopping demonstrator announced plans to merge.
Britten-Norman, manufacturers of the eight-passenger Islander aircraft, and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS), pioneers in hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion technology, signed a Heads of Terms agreement today (21 April) signalling their intention to merge.
The move follows a £7m investment in CAeS by the London-listed HydrogenOne fund last month. A consortium of investors including HydrogenOne, Safran Corporate Ventures and UAE venture capital firm Strategic Development Fund will invest up to £10m in the new company.
The merger is due to complete in mid-2023, subject to due diligence. The partners have collaborated on Project Fresson, developing technologies required to enable a hydrogen propulsion system for the Islander aircraft, for over two years. The government-backed project has secured over £14m in private funding.
The new business is a response to growing demand from airlines and operators for zero-emission aircraft. The partners hope Cranfield’s development of a hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion system and Britten-Norman’s proven aircraft technology will lead to certification of a passenger-carrying service planned for 2026.
“We are very proud to have led this funding round that will create a new leader in green aircraft manufacturing in the UK. Our commitment to investing in clean hydrogen for a positive environmental impact is central to this investment that will contribute towards moving global aviation towards zero-emissions operations,” said HydrogenOne chairman Simon Hogan.
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