The Australian government is backing AMSL Aero’s plans to develop a hydrogen-powered version of its Vertiia eVTOL aircraft with a AU$5.43 million ($3.45 million) grant, the Sydney-based aerospace start-up announced on November 8. The grant, issued by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), will fund the development of a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain that will for the Vertiia’s electric propulsion system, which produces zero emissions.
According to AMSL, a hydrogen powertrain could extend the Vertiia’s range to 1,000 kilometers (620 miles)—quadruple the projected range of the battery-powered version of the aircraft. The single-pilot aircraft can transport up to four passengers or 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of cargo. For aeromedical operations, the aircraft can fit one patient and up to three medical staff.
“AMSL’s aircraft could become an important tool for emergency services personnel, particularly as we face more frequent natural disasters,” said Chris Bowen, Australia’s minister for climate change and energy. “Green hydrogen and other sustainable aviation fuels are vital to help decarbonize the hard-to-abate aviation sector, now accounting for around 2.5 percent of global emissions.”
A full-scale, battery-electric prototype of the Vertiia aircraft achieved its first tethered hover tests in February of this year. “These tests proved that the core concepts of Vertiia worked,” AMSL co-founder and CEO Andrew Moore told AIN. “Since then we have been working through planned upgrades for the next stage of flight test starting next year.”
Moore said AMSL has made “good progress” on the final design and type certification of the Vertiia aircraft, which is expected to enter service in 2026 with a battery-electric powertrain. It is the first domestic eVTOL aircraft developer to obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). The company says it will be sharing updates on its certification progress soon.
While AMSL works to advance its flight testing campaign, the company is also actively engaging with customers “to refine features that are important to them around patient, passenger, and cargo loading and unloading,” Moore said. AMSL has not yet announced its launch customers, but the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with Sydney-based aeromedical group CareFlight to develop rural and regional healthcare applications for eVTOL aircraft such as the Vertiia. “We are working very closely with a range of customers that are at a very advanced stage,” Moore said. “Very soon we will have our first few years of production accounted for.”
According to Moore, AMSL has received a “tremendous interest” in the hydrogen-powered Vertiia, “validating our thesis that the existing aviation market wants a genuine long-range, zero-emissions VTOL,” he said. “So far every customer we have spoken to is excited by the low operating costs that our efficient box-wing design allows and the long range that hydrogen enables. We are not seeing any strong interest in short-range versions of the aircraft, only the long-range offering, which is great.”
In addition to upgrading the Vertiia with hydrogen fuel cells, AMSL is exploring the possibility of a subsequent autonomous version of the aircraft, which would operate without a pilot on board. With the recent government grant, the company has now raised more than AU$45 million ($29 million USD). The company is not actively fundraising at this time but may do so later this year, Moore said.