Hydrogen-electric aircraft developer Zeroavia has signed a memorandum of understanding to partner with The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) to test and develop zero-emission travel across the destination.

Zeroavia will explore the possibility of converting Cessna Caravan seaplanes using its hydrogen-electric propulsion technology. That technology has already been flight tested in six-seat PAX airframe, while a 19-seat testbed flight is imminent.

The 600kW system, targeting certification to support commercial operations of 9-19 seat aircraft, including the Cessna Caravan, will be able to fly 300 nautical miles as early as 2024. The company is also working on a powertrain for 40-80 seat aircraft with up to 1,000 nm range for market entry in 2026.

TRSDC plans to operate a fleet of around 30 seaplane variants of the Cessna Caravan to transport guests across the destination which is expected to open early next year.

Hotels in the Red Sea Development Project

James Peck, vice-president Business Development at Zeroavia, said: “TRSDC recognises the potential of zero-emission propulsion in ensuring that travel across the resort plays its part in the overall sustainability ambitions of the project. Trialing Zeroavia’s 600kW hydrogen-electric powertrains for the Caravan means tourists could be taking these zero-emission flights to the destination by the middle of this decade.”

Under the deal, TRSDC and Zeroavia will work together to develop the technology, including collaborating on a roadmap for delivering the production, supply and infrastructure necessary to support hydrogen-powered air travel in Saudi Arabia, according to a statement by Zeroavia.​

“In order to achieve our ambitions, we’ve had to become much more than a real estate developer. We are an incubator of ideas, leveraging the most innovative concepts and technologies to help us deliver a new archetype for tourism, which pushes beyond sustainability to deliver regeneration for people and planet. Clean, green transport is fundamental to realizing that aim, which is why we’re working with forward-thinking partners such as Zeroavia, to bring about a new way of travelling,” said John Pagano, CEO of TRSDC.

Zeroavia said that it has identified hydrogen-electric powertrains – where fuel cells use hydrogen in a chemical reaction to generate electricity which powers electric motors – as “the most practical, economical, and furthest reaching solution for reducing aviation’s climate change and clean air impacts”. The development of the 600kW powertrain is part of Project HyFlyer II, supported partially by an Aerospace Technology Institute grant from the UK government.

zeroavia.com; theredsea.sa