The Piasecki PA-890-world’s first hydrogen-powered helicopter enters the eVTOL bandwagon

Frank Piasecki, an American engineer and helicopter aviation pioneer, is best remembered as the father of the tandem-rotor helicopter. He pioneered tandem-rotor helicopter designs and created the compound helicopter concept of vectored thrust using a ducted propeller.

Frank Piasecki | Piasecki Aircraft Corporation

What’s new is that two new designs, that borrow from his analysis of automobiles of the 1950s and 1960, may soon see the light of the day and find a place in the emerging civil electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) and utility unmanned aerial systems military markets.

Piasecki designed and flew the second successful helicopter in the U.S., the PV-2, in 1943 and is also credited with inventing the so-called “Flying Banana”-a tandem-rotor helicopter capable of carrying large cargo loads or troops into combat. Piasecki’s tandem-rotor design laid the groundwork for many of today’s successful helicopters, including the Boeing CH-47 Chinook.

The PA-890 eVTOL aircraft

VEA Aviation PA-890 | eVTOL news

Designed for a variety of missions including Emergency Medical Services (EMS), delivery of high-value On-Demand Logistics (ODL), On-Demand Mobility (ODM) personnel air transport; and many others, the PA-890 eVTOL aircraft is an all-electric-powered Slowed-Rotor Winged Compound helicopter.

 The eVTOL features a large four-bladed main rotor, a variable incidence wing that rotates up to 90 degrees to minimize download for efficient hovering and swivelling tail rotor that provides anti-torque and yaw control. As the PA-890 transitions to forward flight the wing rotates to a horizontal position providing lift to offload the rotor and the tail rotor swivels to provide efficient forward propulsion. With lift and thrust demands on the rotor relieved, the rotor RPM is slowed. The combined effect is a dramatic increase in efficiency and range while decreasing noise.

The fuselage is touted to be made using a variety of materials, including carbon fibre.

There are a lot of novel eVTOL configurations proposed out there that will require the development of a new FAA certification basis. This represents a significant risk. We are able to meet our design objectives with a compound helicopter that can be certified under existing Part 27 conventional helicopter standards. So, given the lower risk of the certification process and the simplicity of the design, in our minds, it reduces costs both in terms of acquisition and operations” by using a design that more closely parallels that of a conventional helicopter, albeit a compound one

John Piasecki- the company CEO, said

The aircraft features seating for five and a large baggage compartment with multiple configurations for cabin size and layout.

It has been designed for FAA certification under existing Part 27 standards, reducing the technical, cost and schedule risk of bringing this product to the commercial market relative to more novel configurations requiring a unique certification basis.

According to John, electric motors are very easily operated at different RPMs and hence Electric Propulsion makes it demonstrably easier to control main rotor speed and achieve noise reduction. He further added that the company rejected a battery-only electric design based on performance and a hybrid propulsion system based on cost, given the low associated energy density and limited life cycles.

Hybrid turned out to be excellent from a performance and cost point of view, but it still had a residual carbon footprint. Hydrogen fuel cells offered double the cost-saving and have zero carbon footprint


Currently, various hydrogen supply scenarios for the PA-890 are being explored. Piasecki signed an agreement with California-based HyPoint to collaborate on the development of turbo air-cooled, high-temperature hydrogen fuel cell systems, last August.

HyPoint and Piasecki Aircraft announce collaboration for the development of Hydrogen Fuel Cell System | Representative | TransportUP

The company hopes to have a prototype flying in the 2024-2025 timeframe and is targeting certification for 2027.Once we get economies of scale, the fuel cell cost is going to come way down. The target for overhauls of the PA-890’s fuel system is up to 20,000 hours

Said John

As for the specific industrialization strategies for the PA-890, they are still under discussion.


COVER: ainonline

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