Liam Megill

Co-founder of AeroDelft

Solving Global Warming Through Liquid Hydrogen Aircrafts - Liam Megill of AeroDelft

Nov 2, 2021
Liam Megill

Solving Global Warming Through Liquid Hydrogen Aircrafts

Liam Megill is one of the brains behind AeroDelft, which is actually not a startup but a student-led organization created in Delft University of Technology or TU Delft in Germany with the dream of making aviation a more sustainable industry. With their motto being “Our future flies into clean skies,” they have created a liquid hydrogen-powered aircraft prototype in the hopes that the big players will follow suit and work towards building airplanes that run on sustainable fuels.

What started as a student team designing human-powered submarines came the idea to form a student team focused on building aircrafts. Not only were they able to experiment with reducing drag and increasing efficiency by drilling holes onto the sides of an airplane’s wings, but they were also ultimately able to reduce emissions by using liquid hydrogen as their fuel. 

Why liquid hydrogen? Well, one of the reasons is because it is energy-dense. In fact, liquid hydrogen is already being used in rockets albeit in different ways. With rockets, the liquid hydrogen is combusted, however, for AeroDelft, they plan on using it in a fuel cell.

One of the problems that comes with using liquid hydrogen is its storage, as it needs to be stored at extremely low temperatures. And though its storage temperature is –250 degrees Celsius, it won’t run at this same temperature, so it needs to be cooled for their liquid hydrogen-powered fuel cell to run. But despite these challenges, they have successfully built a remote-controlled prototype of a liquid hydrogen-powered aircraft that is a third of the size of an actual aircraft.

Because they are still in the process of figuring out the direction they want to take AeroDelft in in terms of turning it into a startup, they decided for AeroDelft to remain as a student team for now to give more students the opportunity to be a part of this development. However, Liams says that creating a spinoff from AeroDelft is something they are considering, as that is another challenge they face: not having any funding since they are not a startup.

For the aviation industry, Liam says 10 years feels like just a day, since it takes that much time to build or design a new aircraft. And so, in 10 years, he hopes to see the first hydrogen-powered aircraft in the skies as well as reduced emissions and fuel consumption. He also talks about what companies are doing, such as Airbus with their ZEROe project which aims to produce the world’s first zero-emission aircraft by 2035. 

Liam’s key lessons and quotes from this episode were:

  • “There are different solutions to each problem, and we think about battery powers, think about hydrogen, think about sustainable aviation fuels, they will all play a major part in making aviation more sustainable.” (16:08)
  • “There are different solutions to each problem, and we think about battery powers, think about hydrogen, think about sustainable aviation fuels, they will all play a major part in making aviation more sustainable.” (19:43)
  • “We do want to share what we're doing, because we're not here to make a profit. We are a student team. We're a nonprofit organization. So, we're here with our partners together to show that it's feasible and then also to give that knowledge on to people who are more able or companies who are more able to put this into practice on a larger scale.” (22:53)
  • “We want to fly in clean skies. That's how the future looks like, so we want to do everything we can to make that happen.” (23:52)
  • “10 years for aviation is quite an interesting question, because essentially, it's tomorrow for the aviation world.” (32:21)
  • “I would say that 10 years from now, I would expect that we see the first hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft flying, and I hope to be part of that.” (33:16)

In this episode, we also talked about:

  • The interesting story about how AeroDelft was created (4:49)
  • How liquid hydrogen-powered aircrafts work (10:59)
  • The different fuels or resources that can and are used to fuel airplanes (14:52)
  • Market updates in the aviation space (20:47)
  • Why AeroDelft is still a student-run organization and not a startup yet (25:09)
  • AeroDelft’s biggest challenge (28:51)
  • AeroDelft’s first prototype (31:20)
  • The world in 10 years according to Liam (32:31)

Transcript of the episode

Maiko Schaffrath  00:07

You are listening to Impact Hustlers, and I am your host, Maiko Schaffrath. I have made it my mission to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to solve some of the world's biggest social and environmental problems. And for this reason, I am speaking to some of the best entrepreneurs out there who are solving problems such as food waste, climate change, poverty, and homelessness. 

My goal is that Impact Hustlers will inspire you, either by starting an impact business yourself, by joining the team of one, or by taking a small step, whatever that may be, towards being part of the solution to the world's biggest problems. 

Cool. Liam, it's really good to have you on Impact Hustlers. You co-founded something that's not the usual fit for Impact Hustlers, but I got really excited when I came across you. 

Usually, obviously, we always have entrepreneurs that work full-time on commercial startups that are out there building new technologies to solve social and environmental problems, and you co-founded AeroDelft, which is a student group, a nonprofit student group working on hydrogen-powered aviation. 

So, I'm really excited to have somebody with a different background, different angle, talk about this future technology, and it's great to have you on the podcast.

Liam Megill  01:48

Thanks so much. Glad to be here.

Maiko Schaffrath  01:50

Great. So, the first thing I thought is, whenever I heard about student teams working on technology, usually, I think of some student team working on solar-powered cars, stuff like that, and then going for races somewhere, and they have to compete either with very little fuel or only with solar energy, stuff like that. I guess, when you started AeroDelft, that was too boring for you to get into. Why did you start AeroDelft initially?

Liam Megill  02:24

It's an interesting question. I actually originally started doing something completely different. I started designing human-powered submarines, which is a topic unto itself, essentially. I mean, it deserves a lot more attention than it gets. It's a great sport. 

It's one of the student teams here in Delft, and essentially, what you do is you build a two-and-a-half-meter long tube and you put someone in there in a wetsuit, a cyclist, and stick in an oxygen bottle onto his back, and then he pedals as much as he can over 100 meters, and the fastest time wins, all while trying not to hit the walls or some salon poles. 

It's pretty exciting, and that's one of the teams so, indeed, you said solar-powered cars. We have all sorts of teams here in Delft, and that's why I actually came to TU Delft in the first place. They're called dream teams. 

And so, in the first year, I was part of this human-powered submarine Dream Team, but there was no team doing anything with airplanes. And for me, I moved to Germany in 2013, and I started gliding. I know you're also a paraglider as far as I remember.

Maiko Schaffrath  03:38

Yeah, actually, yeah.

Liam Megill  03:39

So, it's- 

Maiko Schaffrath  03:40

My first flight ever was in a sail plane, so actually in a glider plane, the ones that you're flying. 

Liam Megill  03:48


Maiko Schaffrath  03:49

And I never made a license for that or anything like that. I was just a passenger. And now, I'm doing paragliding and I'm doing a private pilot license so that's, I guess, one of the other angles where I am so passionate about aviation and sustainable aviation.

Liam Megill  04:05

Sure, yeah. I mean, I don't have to tell you how much fun it is to fly, of course, but that's what got me interested in flying in general. So, I did that for a few years. I'm now also an instructor, so I get to teach people. That's been a very rewarding experience as well. 

And so, when I came here to the TU Delft in 2016, I guess it was a case of making my hobby into a career, I guess, to study aerospace engineering. When I arrived at the Dream Hall, first making submarines, I figured out that that's not quite what I wanted to do. 

I wanted to go into the direction of aircrafts, and it was a shame that there was no team there to build aircrafts. And so, it was at the back of quite a difficult exam, thermodynamics exam, a friend of mine went into the center of Delft, got a pizza, and came up with the idea. That was essentially it. 

We said, "Okay, we want to build a student team. We want to make aircrafts. We want to give students the opportunity to actually do something practically," because what we thought was missing in the studies, which in my opinion, it still is, is a real focus on sustainability. I mean, we are all the students aware that aviation is responsible for 2-3% of anthropogenic warming, but we weren't really given any opportunity to discuss what we could do about that. 

Maybe it's a bit naive of me to think that would happen in the Bachelors, the first year of a Bachelors, but we thought that, "Why not make this something practical where we can actually build something, or design something, build something, and then test it, and show that we as students can also make an impact?" So, then it became the question, "What do we want to do? Which direction do we want to go? What challenge do we want to face and solve?" 

We actually started with something that's, on the face of it, seems a little bit odd, I guess, also submarines. Everything's a bit odd about this story, but we started by drilling millions of holes into the wing of a plane. So, these very, very small holes, diameter of 0.1 mm, we would laser into the wings, and then you would suck air through those holes. 

And by doing so, you force the flow over the wing to stay laminar or to not become turbulent, and therefore, you reduce the amount of drag that your wing is producing by quite a lot. So, in the gliding world, there was a study done on this, and we could increase our lift-to-drag ratio, essentially a metric of efficiency of an aircraft, we could increase it by 10 points which, for a glider, is substantial. 

If you were to scale this up to a full-scale aircraft, it could also have a major impact on emissions reduction. It was a bit of a crazy idea, and it's still in the works. We actually focused on something else in the end, because this proved to be quite a bit more difficult than what we were first hoping, but we hope to revitalize this, at least I hope to this year, but we had a discussion, what we want to do. 

We had the sufficiency idea, this boundary layer section system, as it's called, but it was part of a broader discussion that we were having and I think the industry is also having is, what we want to do going forward? Do we want to continue to improve our efficiency and, therefore, reduce fuel consumption and, therefore, reduce our impact on the environment, which we have been doing successfully in aviation for the last 100 years? 

For sure, especially since the 1980s, when we've actually increased our aircraft efficiency quite drastically. We've saved tons and tons and tons of CO2 since then. But we had discussion between that. Okay, so efficiency is one thing, but why don't we go for a radical new approach? Why don't we change the fuel, fundamentally change how the aircraft is run? 

And we came to the conclusion that the biggest impact we could have is to change the fuel, so liquid hydrogen. Specifically, that's liquid hydrogen, which is a problem in itself. It's stored at a very, very low temperature. I mean, we know how cold it can get. Some people will know -20, some people will know -40 outside temperatures. People might even know LNG, -180 degrees Celsius. 

We're talking about liquid hydrogen here is -250, which is less than 20 degrees Celsius warmer than absolute zero. It's maybe 10 or 15 degrees warmer than space. It's quite a challenge, but it's what we feel and what I think since we founded AeroDelft, the industry has started to recognize this as being one of the solutions to reducing the industry's impact on the environment. And so, we went for liquid hydrogen. 

That was three and a bit years ago now, and we unveiled our prototype February of this year, 2021, which was very exciting, especially getting to see the aircraft for the first time, which took a while after the unveiling for me, unfortunately, because of the code regulations. 

It was a great experience, and it will fly this year, first electrically, then on gaseous hydrogen, which is easier to store, but we can't fly for as long, and then hopefully, in the autumn/winter of 2021, we'll then fly on liquid hydrogen. 

So, it's very exciting, and we sort of hoped that by showing this is possible, a bunch of students in the TU Delft can design a plane like this, that we can show that it is a feasible solution, and that companies who have a lot more money, a lot more experience, and also a lot more capacity to do these projects will actually also follow suit and we see liquid hydrogen-powered passenger aircraft in the next 10 years. That's our goal.

Maiko Schaffrath  10:32

Wow. I guess with that temperature, how can somebody that's not in engineering understand how you actually have to build the aircraft? Do you have to build a massive flying fridge to be able to maintain the temperature of the liquid hydrogen? What are the engineering challenges that you have in building a plane that's powered by liquid hydrogen?

Liam Megill  10:59

There are quite a few. It's safe to say that there have not been any projects so far or very, very few minor research projects that have been done so far on using that in aviation. We know the fuel from rocketry. Many rockets will use liquid hydrogen, use liquid oxygen as their fuel, so knowledge is there, but it has not been used in the sense that we're using it, because we aren't combusting hydrogen. 

We're using hydrogen in a fuel cell. And as a result, the fuel cells have a very limited operating margin when it comes to temperature. They don't like to run at very, very low temperatures, which means we have to bring the liquid hydrogen from its very low temperature to around about just over 0 degrees Celsius from somewhere between 0 and 20 degrees Celsius. That's about where our fuel cell runs. 

There are also fuel cells that run at 1,000 degrees Celsius, so it is quite arranged, but the one we're using is a PEM fuel cell, Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cell, and that one can take hydrogen in between 0 and 20 degrees Celsius. It is quite a complex process. We don't actually actively cool the hydrogen. 

So, generally speaking, there are two ways you could do this. If you see liquid hydrogen stored somewhere, it's actively being cooled. In our case, we will put it into the tank and let it warm, because we'll use that warming hydrogen to run the fuel cell. So, we designed the tank so that it works. 

There are quite a few challenges, though. It's very interesting, and of course, safety is a huge, huge part of it. I was interviewed on a radio station here in the Netherlands a while back, and the first thing that- he said he'd do a couple of intro questions, but he just played the audio of the Hindenburg disaster and asked us, "Oh, but do you know what this is?," and we said, "Well, yeah, we know what this is, but what you're suggesting is that technology hasn't gotten better since 1930s, and it's almost a hundred years later, and that's just complete nonsense." 

Look at the technology we have now. We know how to store this safely, and it's safe to say that if we had any doubts about the safety, we would not be doing what we're doing, that's for sure. So, we are working with people who have experience with hydrogen, and we're helping companies that maybe do not yet but will be required in the chain to bring hydrogen to aircraft in the future, helping them get knowledge of this so that we can hopefully bring the infrastructure up to pace as quickly as possible. 

Maiko Schaffrath  14:02

Great. Great. 

Liam Megill  14:03

Yeah, but quite a few challenges still to face.

Maiko Schaffrath  14:06

To solve, yeah. What do you say to people that are more passionate about battery-powered aviation? Obviously, the whole car industry is moving that way. It seems like that is the technology of choice, electric cars, and all the big manufacturers are focused on that right now, and obviously, these batteries are getting better. 

They may not be good enough right now, but maybe in 10 years' time, they could be good enough to power a plane. Have you considered that and what would you say for people that think that there may be different technologies that are better suited for this?

Liam Megill  14:50

Yeah, definitely. The interesting thing, and this is something that I think I personally have also learned over the last year or so, at the beginning of AeroDelft, we were trumpeting hydrogen. We still are. We believe that hydrogen is a major part of the future, not just for aviation, of course, where we can use it. 

Right now, our economy is based on oil, and we've set everything up that way. But it is feasible, at least in our opinion, and there have been enough studies that show that we could change our industry, change our society, and base it on hydrogen. So, that's why we thought hydrogen should also be used for aviation. It's a lot more energy-dense than current fuels like kerosene, but it does have a volume problem. That's the big problem with hydrogen. 

So, at the beginning of AeroDelft, we were saying, "Okay, hydrogen is the future." We all think about this, and I think for me personally, over the last year, I have figured out that there's no one single answer to any engineering challenge, and luckily, that is the case. Otherwise, I think my job as an engineer in the future will be pretty boring. 

There are different solutions to each problem, and we think about battery powers, think about hydrogen, think about sustainable aviation fuels, they will all play a major part in making aviation more sustainable. Batteries, especially, I think we heard recently that a large proportion of vehicles sold here the Netherlands last year were battery-powered or electric, and that's ever-increasing. 

I think we will see the same thing for airplanes, but there is a limit to how large the airplanes can get for electric batteries to be feasible at the current technology. Of course, if they improve, then maybe we'll see more. 

So, I think what we will see is the smaller aircraft, let's say, up to 10, maybe 19 passengers, perhaps powered by batteries, or maybe there's a hybrid electric option where you combust a sustainable aviation fuel, so a kerosene equivalent created with carbon capture of CO2 from the atmosphere or another way. 

We might see hydroelectric or even just complete battery electric aircrafts in the smaller segments. Anything larger than that, though, batteries no longer become feasible, so you essentially will have two options. Either we use hydrogen, we can use hydrogen as we're doing with the fuel cell, or we can use hydrogen and combust it which would involve less new updates of the current aircrafts or current engine designs that we have. And we also will see sustainable aviation fuels play a role. 

Right now, with the latest reports, latest European Union/McKinsey reports on hydrogen aviation, it essentially says that anything up to a short- to medium-range aircraft, so think Airbus A220, Boeing 737 MAX, that sort of sized aircraft, could be powered by hydrogen. 

It's more cost effective in the future to make those aircrafts fly on hydrogen. If you're talking about longer range aircrafts, at least until the year 2050 or so, we will probably see those powered by sustainable aviation fuels, such as biofuels or synfuels, because it's more cost effective. 

When you have a very long distance flight, you will have to put a lot more fuel in, which means that the aircraft will have to be extended because of the volume problem with hydrogen. And of course, also, which I didn't even think about, but the refueling takes longer if you have more fuel. And so, if you refuel, even for 10 minutes more, you could jeopardize an entire flight for an airline in a day. 

So, there's a lot of other considerations that we haven't even thought of yet, which will come into play, but I think their conclusion is that, and I think it's ours as well, that we'll see a substantial fleet replacement on hydrogen by the year 2050 which is, for aviation, that's where the climate goals are. 

In the EU, they aim for net zero emissions. Globally, the Air Transport Action Group aims for half of the emissions than in 2005. Both of those are very difficult to achieve, but we're suggesting that about 40% of aircrafts by 2050 will be hydrogen-powered, and the rest will probably be powered by sustainable aviation fuels, or there will also be, for the smaller segments, batteries. 

So, we shouldn't bet on one horse. We have to have different solutions, and we're focusing on hydrogen, but it's great to see that others are focusing on other things. We need to see which one will become the most effective. That's-

Maiko Schaffrath  19:55

Great, yeah. 

Liam Megill  19:57

The main thing.

Maiko Schaffrath  19:57

The best approach to take anyways with green energy on the ground and I think for any part of solving big problems, I think taking different approaches to it. Now, you're actually not the only ones working on this. There's some really big players in this now. I think Airbus announced that they're working on hydrogen-powered airplanes as well and that they want to come out with something by 2035, I think.

Liam Megill  20:27

Yes, exactly. 

Maiko Schaffrath  20:27

Who else is working on this and how do you relate to the developments in the market? Do you see a lot more happening? Or do you still think you can pioneer something that maybe even Airbus can't get done or maybe they're not even doing?

Liam Megill  20:46

It's very interesting. Since we founded AeroDelft in, what was that, 2017, at the time, we didn't see very much. There were very little- some companies had said that they were interested and they were looking into the possibilities, but there were no, apart from one or two projects here or there, research projects mostly, there was nothing being said in the realm of hydrogen in aviation, publicly at least, or very little. 

Since we got started, I don't know, I'm not sure we could take the full credit for this. I think that would be a little bit overblown, but of course, since then, we've seen a lot more. Airbus has now said that the ZEROe projects will be powered by hydrogen. They are looking both at fuel cells and combustion. 

And you're right, they're aiming at 2030-2035 for first commercial aircraft, which makes sense also if you look at the segments, that they're aiming for the last aircraft in, let's say, the short- to medium-range segment was the A220neo and the 737 MAX, and it usually takes about 10-15 years before the next cycle, or even 20 years sometimes. 

So, if they were released back in 2015 or 2014, something like that, we would expect new aircraft to come on the market 2030, so that's what they're aiming for to replace the aircrafts that they're currently making. We see a lot of work, and it's very heartening to see that, but it is also very interesting, because often, when we talk to companies who we might want to partner with and work on this, at the same time, we realize how far ahead we are already. 

So, it's quite interesting when we get questions about, "How are you doing this?," because we know the answers as the students from TU Delft, which is, it's an interesting position to be in because it's not how you expect it to be. But yeah, I mean, that's what we're here for. 

We do want to share what we're doing, because we're not here to make a profit. We are a student team. We're a nonprofit organization. So, we're here with our partners together to show that it's feasible and then also to give that knowledge on to people who are more able or companies who are more able to put this into practice on a larger scale, because I mean, we can't build passenger aircrafts yet.

Maiko Schaffrath  23:19

Yeah, so were you open-sourcing that technology in the end? How is the model actually to spread the technology you're working on?

Liam Megill  23:29

Yes. We still haven't decided yet how exactly we want to do that. Of course, we have our partners who have been helping us over the past few years, so the knowledge will mostly get passed through them. But of course, anything that we believe is vitally important will be shared, because we believe- so, our motto is into "Flying clean skies." 

We want to fly in clean skies. That's how the future looks like, so we want to do everything we can to make that happen, but we're not far enough yet that we have something that we could easily put down onto paper and give to people or give to companies to say, "This is how we do things," because we're still developing ourselves. 

So, once we have an idea of what we have and what we have that other people may not, we will then figure out how to pass it on most efficiently and most effectively for the future. 

Maiko Schaffrath  24:24

Got it. Let's talk a bit about the entrepreneurial journey as well and some of the challenges around that and dive a bit deeper on that. First, I'd be keen to understand why you decided to set up AeroDelft as a nonprofit student organization. Obviously, it may have happened in the context of what you were doing at the time as well. 

But even now, is there a reason you're not saying, "Okay, let's spin this out, make it into a commercial company, and be kind of the Tesla of aviation and mix up the market, get some investment"? Why are you deciding to have it as a student-run organization at the moment?

Liam Megill  25:09

It's a good question, and it's a question that we have, that I personally and I think a number of my colleagues, have also thought, "Why aren't we doing this commercially?" I think it has a fairly simple answer, because it's essentially why we got this started. At the time, I didn't know very much about what I was talking about. I was a first year Bachelor student, and we're talking about aviation. It's not something you can just go into without knowledge, so we needed a degree. 

I think, at the time, there was no other choice for us. We needed to make this into a student team, but it's more than that. The reason we did it like this is because we wanted to provide students like ourselves the opportunity to do things practically, and you wouldn't get that as much with a startup or with anything commercial, because you didn't have to think about paying the people you work with. 

And also, talking about investment, we didn't know what we were going into. Our original idea was to use a boundary layer section. The nice thing about being this sort of association or this sort of being a nonprofit is that we can make decisions and go in a direction that we feel is the most effective at any given time. 

We, of course, have partners who we discussed what we were doing with, but they're a lot more open to changes, or because of problems that may come up, we think, "Okay, we'll do something a little bit differently," which we have that flexibility as a nonprofit, which is a very big bonus when you're working with this sort of technology. 

But mostly, the reason is simply that we want to, as students, have an opportunity to do this whilst still studying, because we know that if you're doing a startup, you have to leave your studies, you have to focus full-time on it, and that's not possible if you want to further your studies. I am working my Masters now, so that'd be not possible to do if this was commercial. 

We do have ideas of spinning off potentially some startups from AeroDelft, but we want to get our plane flying first. That's the idea. And then, the full scale aircraft after that, which we will be receiving pretty soon, the airframe for. 

So, we want to focus on that first. If that is successful, and we know it will be, then we'll think about the spinoffs in a bit more detail, and it has also allowed us as the founders or the first generation of the team to have completed our studies to a level where we think we now know a little bit more about what we're talking about to discuss this with people who've been in industry for a long time. Yeah, that's the idea.

Maiko Schaffrath  28:10

Got it. And then, in your journey, you're about to actually fly your first prototype. You just revealed it recently. You're going to kind of move quite fast in the next few months and have made a lot of progress, but what would you say has been the biggest hurdle for you to get there? And what may be one of the biggest hurdles for you to still be able to progress going forward? This could be technology-wise, it could be funding, anything, really. What do you think is kind of-? 

Liam Megill  28:48


Maiko Schaffrath  28:48

I guess-

Liam Megill  28:48

I mean.

Maiko Schaffrath  28:48

The biggest for you?

Liam Megill  28:51

The biggest challenge, I think, up until this point, has not been the technology. I think the biggest challenge has been the fact that we're not a startup, so how we can get funding, because we need money, of course. 

It's not possible, even though we have a bunch of students who are doing all of this part-time, no one's being paid for this. We're all doing it for free. Essentially, we're all working for this for free. And in that environment, yeah, it's very difficult to get funding from investors, because there's no return of this project right now. We can't provide anything in return at the moment. 

In the future, maybe things will change with a spinoff. We want AeroDelft to remain a student team, but maybe we come up with a spinoff or something like that. I think then, even though that's a whole different challenge, the funding problem is very different, because there, you have a potential return on some investment. 

We've had to go through sponsorship which is a really- it's a very, very nice feeling when you're sponsored by someone because, of course, they believe in what you're doing, and it makes them even more proud when you succeed, because they're not in it for getting a return. They're able to see you succeed, and that is very nice, but it's also quite a challenge to get that money in the first place, to show people that you mean what you're doing, and that you have a chance of succeeding when you had nothing to show in the first place. 

I do feel that now that we will have our prototype flying very soon, that things will come easier, because we've then proven ourselves that we are able to do what we said we would, even though I think we were a little bit overly ambitious with our planning for the beginning of the project. 

We have shown that we're able to do something and make it happen, so I think the funding might get easier, but that's been, I think, the major roadblock, especially also going forward with our full-scale aircraft where, suddenly, it is not a linear progression in terms of size and money. It's quite a steep trajectory.

Maiko Schaffrath  31:08

Yeah. So, the first one is actually going to be a third of the final size, right? And it's going to be a remote-controlled-

Liam Megill  31:14

Yes, third of the size. Prototype.  Correct, yes. So, it'll be 50 kg. Wingspan about six meters. It looks bigger than you'd expect from the photos, and it'll be powered by up to a kilogram of liquid hydrogen, and that kilogram can essentially let it fly for up to seven hours if we want to. We won't fill it up to that limit at the beginning, of course, once we're doing the testing. 

But yeah, the full-scale aircraft would be quite a lot bigger, I mean, talking 50 kilograms of the prototype to probably more than a ton for the full-scale aircraft. It's a third scale, but it's not a third in weight and not a third in budget either.

Maiko Schaffrath  32:07

Interesting. If you now think about the next 10 years, how does the world look like in 10 years if AeroDelft succeeds with your mission?

Liam Megill  32:21

Yes, 10 years for aviation is quite an interesting question, because essentially, it's tomorrow for the aviation world. It takes 10 years to develop an aircraft, a full-passenger aircraft, especially when you're looking at new technologies. 

I think, well, for AeroDelft, we want to have our full-scale aircraft, so the two-person aircraft flying in 2023 that'll be on gaseous hydrogen. After that, we'll focus on the liquid side of things again. So, I think, what is that? 2025, I guess, we're looking quite short-term, for AeroDelft at least, because we can't really plan for much longer. The team changes every year. We have new people coming in. So, AeroDelft's vision is quite difficult to see. 

For me personally, I would say that 10 years from now, I would expect that we see the first hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft flying, and I hope to be part of that, whether it's working for a company like Airbus, or whether we've set up our own spinoff. I think both of those are viable approaches. 

Ten years from now, I believe we'll have set up hydrogen infrastructure enough that we can fly these aircraft, at least from some hubs, and then such that in five years from then, so 2035, that we then see quite a lot more. 

And then, if Airbus does bring in their ZEROe projects between 2030-2035, we will then start to see a substantial amount of aircrafts flying around with hydrogen, and that's very exciting. It's one of the reasons I think that sustainable aviation is probably the place to be, for engineering at least, because it's so exciting. There are so many things you can do. I mean, short term, if you think about aviation emissions, we can even think about how to reroute aircrafts. 

We have the European Single Sky Approach. If we can divert aircrafts around climate-sensitive areas, we can even just reduce our fuel consumption by 10-15% already. There are so many things that we can do to reduce our emissions. I think 10 years from now, I'm pretty optimistic that we'll have made quite a big impact by them.

Maiko Schaffrath  34:51

Thank you, Liam, for joining me today. It was really inspiring to hear what you can pull off with a bunch of part-time students and a really ambitious vision for the future. I wish you all the best for the upcoming test flights and prototype development, and thanks very much for joining.

Liam Megill  35:09

Thank you very much.

Maiko Schaffrath  35:10

Thank you. Alright.