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Startup unveils hydrogen-powered VTOL aircraft — and it could revolutionize aviation

These VTOLs are perhaps best suited to address the pollution generated from personal aircraft usage.

These VTOLs are perhaps best suited to address the pollution generated from personal aircraft usage.

Photo Credit: Sirius Jet

A startup called Sirius Aviation AG has released designs and images of hydrogen-powered VTOL aircraft called Sirius Jets that could influence how we travel and the impact of air transit on the environment.

According to reporting in Designboom, these VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft are intended for small-party air travel in private-jet and commercial variants. The design project — a product of the startup, BMW Designworks, and Sauber Group — claims to produce a more efficient form of air travel that operates at an extremely low noise level.

These VTOLs are perhaps best suited to address the pollution generated from personal aircraft usage. As shown in a study by Greenly, personalities like Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, Blake Shelton, and many others generate thousands of tons of carbon pollution from private jet usage.

The two models under development by the startup, the Business Jet and Millenium Jet, seat three or five people, respectively. Limited seating and luxury design means these flights will likely be out of the price range for everyday consumers.

VTOL technology is not new. According to University of Colorado, Boulder, the first operational technology of this kind was the British Harrier "jump jet," utilized by the Royal Air Force starting in the late 1960s.

Sirius Jet is unique from other VTOL projects, such as a prominent entry from Honda, because the range of the aircraft is far greater because of the use of hydrogen fuel. As Deisgnboom reported, Sirius Aviation noted its aircraft well exceeds the range of a fully electric VTOL, which typically maxes out at around 150 miles. According to the Sirius Jet website, the Sirius business jet has a range of up to 1,150 miles.

This development in hydrogen fuel use sits at the intersection of travel trends and the direction of the energy market. These two forces represent a supply and demand for Sirius Jet technology. Celebrities and the ultra-wealthy have been taking to the skies more and more frequently at increasing cost to the environment. For example, Business Insider reported that Elon Musk's private jet travel alone is responsible for 132 times the average American's total yearly carbon output.

In a parallel development, Energy News Network reports that various actors in the dirty energy industry spent $41.3 million lobbying the federal government in the name of hydrogen fuel development between January and the end of September 2023. This is because 95% of hydrogen fuel in the United States is currently produced using natural gas, meaning that this "clean" fuel requires quite a lot of carbon pollution — and development of dirty energy infrastructure — to create.

With all of this considered, there is some good that can come from the developments at Sirius Jet. While the connection of the hydrogen production process to fossil fuel infrastructure expansion has alienated the environmental community, the Sierra Club acknowledges it may have its uses. The group posits that green hydrogen, or hydrogen produced from clean energy production processes, can be used for "hard-to-decarbonize sectors," which could include aviation.

Hydrogen fuel and Sirius Jet may not be the perfect way forward to a green economy, but they do represent a more environmentally harmonious option for an emerging luxury air travel market, especially if the hydrogen fuel is produced using renewable energy.

Sirius Jet plans to make its VTOL aircraft publicly available in 2025, according to Designboom.

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