Founded by three electric motor enthusiasts, the start-up Beyond Aero is working on the development of an hydrogen-powered aircraft. An ambitious project for these air pioneers determined to preserve our atmosphere.

Flying without emitting a single gram of CO2 is one of today’s most seducing ideas. An idea that fascinates Eloa Guillotin (M.20) and Hugo Tarlé (M.20) since they met Valentin Chomel at École Polytechnique, in 2019. “Hugo and I were both passionate about electricity and Valentin was already working for the Safran Group. The question of electrified aircrafts came up very quickly,” says Eloa Guillotin, co-founder of the start-up Beyond Aero.

Initially, the trio developed small remote-controlled airplanes powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Then, everything accelerated when they joined an incubator program at Berkeley.

 

Design and prospects

“While we were at Berkeley, the European pivot of Airbus and the French hydrogen plan happened. We thought it was time to go for it,” recalls the young graduate. The three entrepreneurs then set out to raise their first funds and defined their product after studying the market: a light business jet with 6 to 8 seats. “It’s the intersection between a strong market need and technological feasibility with acceptable risk.”

To develop their first prototype, the team started with modifying the motorization of a small propeller-driven aircraft. They purchased decarbonized gaseous hydrogen from industrial partners, placing it in a tank and transforming it into electricity via a fuel cell, thus powering the electric motor that turns the propellers. 

“Hydrogen is much lighter than lithium-ion batteries, so this technology allows for a large radius of action, of about 1,500 kilometers. On the other hand, it takes up more volume, which is why we need to imagine a more suitable design,” explains Eloa. No visual of this two-seater prototype has yet been revealed, but a first look at this small plane could hold many surprises!

The project is attractive to experts. In 2021, Beyond Aero was selected by the Y Combinator, the largest incubator in the world. It is currently going at supersonic speed: new fundraising, new wave of recruitment and a new luxury advisor in the person of Air France’s ex-boss, Bernard Attali. With a staff of 20 people, the start-up is getting ready to fly its prototype. The goal is to have its first hydrogen-powered business jet in service by the end of the decade. Now – almost – boarding! 

 

Published by Estel Plagué

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