British Airways has announced a new partnership with hydrogen-electric aviation solutions firm Zeroavia, to explore “the transformational possibilities of moving from fossil fuels to zero-emission hydrogen to power the airline’s future fleet”.

Zeroavia completed “the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell powered flight of a commercial-size aircraft” in September this year, with a Piper M-class six-seat plane performing a circuit from Cranfield airport in Bedfordshire.

BA said that the collaboration will see Zeroavia “embedded in the heart of the airline”, with research and learnings from the process being shared to allow the firms to consider how to progress the partnership in the longer term.

Zeroavia is targeting the commercialisation of hydrogen-electric power for aircraft “as early as 2023”, with flights of up to 500 miles in up to 20-seater aircraft, and by 2027 the firm wants to have powerplants in service capable of powering commercial flights of over 500 miles in aircraft with up to 100 seats.

The new partnership is part of IAG’s Hangar 51 accelerator programme, which see the group work with “start-ups and scale-ups” from around the world, “providing them with an opportunity to develop and test their products on real world business challenges on a global scale”.

Commenting on the news BA’s CEO Sean Doyle said:

“British Airways is committed to a sustainable future and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. In the short-term this means improving our operational efficiency and introducing carbon offset and removal projects, while in the medium to longer term we’re investing in the development of sustainable aviation fuel and looking at how we can help accelerate the growth of new technologies such as zero emissions hydrogen-powered aircraft.”

Earlier this year Airbus unveiled a new project codenamed ZEROe, with which it hopes to bring zero-emission hydrogen-fuelled commercial aircraft into service by 2035.

Airbus unveils concepts for zero-emission commercial aircraft,