By Barry Prentice
Hydrogen is not just the transportation fuel of the future: it is here now. Hydrogen gas is already used to power road vehicles (cars, trucks, buses), fork-lift trucks and even, in Germany, trains. Aviation is the next mode of transport converting to hydrogen. Hydrogen-using airplanes are still some ways off. But safe and cost-effective hydrogen airships could be flying now, if only our air regulations allowed it.
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Earlier this month, the first International Hydrogen Aviation Conference (IHAC), originally scheduled for Scotland but moved to Zoom because of the pandemic, brought together experts on hydrogen-powered airplanes, hydrogen storage systems and electric airships.
With 21st-century materials and engineering, a modern hydrogen dirigible would be as safe as any modern airplane
The development of electric aircraft has been underway for some time. Electric motors have already been certified for aviation use, while prototypes have been flown using lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells (HFCs). The obvious challenges for electric airplanes are the weight and space required to store sufficient energy.