Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA
Alaka’i Technologies is an emerging air mobility design and manufacturing company founded by Brian Morrison. The executive team has decades of aerospace development including NASA, Raytheon, Beech Aircraft, McDonnell Douglas, Hughes and more. The company is engineering proprietary, progressive air mobility solutions to offer point-to-any-point transportation that are safe, simple, zero-emissions, affordable and comfortable. The company plans ultimately to transform transportation through hydrogen-powered mobility.
A non-flying version of the aircraft was unveiled on May 29, 2019 in Newbury Park, California, USA. NBC Los Angeles said it “resembles an oversized drone crossed with a luxury SUV.”
BMW-owned global creative consultancy Designworks was contracted for the design, with a focus on the passenger experience. Morrison holds several patents supporting the Alaka’i hydrogen fuel cell hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft. According to the company, the fuel cells are 95% reusable, the remaining 5% are 99% recyclable, and can travel longer distances than its current competitors.
Skai uses six (6) electric motors with built-in redundancy, holds five (5) passengers (1 pilot and 4 passengers) or a maximum of 1,000 lb (454 kg), flies at 118 mph (190 km/h), flies for over four (4) hours, has about a 400 mile (644 km) range (possibly more) and has an emergency parachute for safety. It can refuel in about 10 minutes, the byproduct of hydrogen fuel is heat and water and a fuel cell is much more efficient than a combustion engine. It has a large windows giving passengers an excellent view. The vehicle can be used an air taxi, personal air vehicle, cargo delivery and more.
We’re demonstrating what we began over 20 years ago together at NASA: truly point-to-any-point, safe, affordable distributed on-demand air mobility.Brian Morrison, President
Fuel cell technology was first invented in 1838 but was not used for commercial purposes until the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) used it to generate power for satellites and space capsules. Since then, fuel cells have been used for many applications from cars, buses, boats, motorcycles, submarines and for co-generation.
Hydrogen has a few hundred times the energy density of the best of lithium ion battery technology.Alaka’i Technologies Board Member Dr. Bruce Holmes
Fuel cells, depending upon the type of fuel cell, can create two types of pollution. The catalyst which makes them work faster, is toxic. While hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the universe, it does not occur naturally as a gas on earth. It takes energy to produce hydrogen; therefore, if fossil fuel is used to create hydrogen, then indirectly, the power source used to create hydrogen will pollute the air.
If clean energy such as power from windmills create the electricity to create hydrogen, then it there will be very little indirect pollution. One can go even further, if internal combustion engine (ICE) cars or trucks, or gas turbine helicopters are used to service windmills, there is still indirect pollution being made in the creation of hydrogen and so on.
Of course, the same can be said to the making of batteries and the charging of batteries. There are certainly fossil fuels being used to make and power batteries and these fossil fuels indirectly releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, as more clean energy is used to make and store clean energy, then the better it will be for earth, the human race and will hopefully reverse climate change.
A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts the chemical energy of a fuel (often hydrogen) and an oxidizing agent (often oxygen) into electricity through a pair of redox reactions. Fuel cells are different from most batteries in requiring a continuous source of fuel and oxygen (usually from air) to sustain the chemical reaction, whereas in a battery the chemical energy usually comes from metals and their ions or oxides that are commonly already present in the battery, except in flow batteries. Fuel cells can produce electricity continuously for as long as fuel and oxygen are supplied.Wikipedia
Alaka’i Technology says it can achieve a lower environmental impact and better performance from fuel cells because they can store more energy than batteries can in less space. This reduces the weight of the aircraft increasing operating range. Their fuel cells are said to have a very long lifespan, in terms of decades.
Alaka’i Technologies claims that using fuel cells and the technology used in their aircraft creates a much simpler vehicle, or lowers complexity, has very few moving parts (fuel cells have no moving parts) and because of this they are hopeful to be able get through FAA (Federal Aviation Administration, USA) regulations in certifying the aircraft in about one (1) year or by 2020, so that production can begin. However, they concede that due to the complexity of FAA regulations, this early projected time frame might not take place.
Alaka’i says it’s planning its first test flight sometime in 2019 near its headquarters in Massachusetts.
- Aircraft type: Hybrid-electric VTOL
- Pilot: 1
- Passengers: 4
- Cruise speed: 118 mph (190 kmh)
- Range: 400 miles (644 km)
- Time in the air: About 4 hours
- Propellers: 6
- Electric motors: 6
- Power source: Hydrogen fuel cells
- Refueling time: 10 minutes
- Windows: Large windows provide spectacular views for the passengers
- Landing gear: Skids
- Emissions: No emissions. Hydrogen cells emissions produce water and some heat
- Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) with 6 propellers and 6 electric motors and in the event of 1 or 2 propellers stopping, the remaining propellers can land the aircraft safely to the ground, the aircraft also have redundancies for critical components
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- Article: Will Upcoming Skai Aircraft Be The Air Mobility Solution Of The Future?, Forbes, May 30, 2019
- Article: Skai Hydrogen-Powered Electric Flying Vehicle Unveiled, Experts Says Numerous Regulatory Hurdles to Be Cleared, Gadgets 360, May 30, 2019
- Article: Hydrogen-Power Electric Flying Vehicle: Long Road to Liftoff, NBC Los Angeles, May 29, 2019
- Article: The Skai is a multipurpose flying car powered by hydrogen fuel cells, Digital Trends, May 29, 2019
- Article: We’re still waiting for flying cars. This startup says hydrogen power is the answer, Fast Company, May 29, 2019
- Article: Alaka’i’s Skai wants to be the fuel cell-powered aircraft of the people, CNET, May 29, 2019
- Article: Skai could be the first fuel cell-powered flying taxi, Engadget, May 29, 2019
- Video: Interview with Steve Hanvey, CEO of Alaka’i, developers of a hydrogen powered air vehicle, socalTECH, May 29, 2019