Alaka'i's Skai wants to be the fuel cell-powered aircraft of the people

Skai, if built, would mark the first appearance of hydrogen fuel cell power in an aircraft.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
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This six-rotor pod in the sky could be the way people get around in the future if Alaka'i has its way.

Alaka'i Technologies

Aircraft are dirty. Their engines use a lot of fuel and put a bunch of crud into the atmosphere, but they're still also the fastest way to get from A to B in most cases.

To combat the inherent environmental issues associated with aircraft, people have been working on making electrically powered helicopters and planes, but the limitations of battery technology make that impractical for most applications.

That's where Alaka'i Technologies and its hydrogen fuel cell-powered Skai craft come in. Announced by the company on Wednesday, the Skai is an electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL) that gets around the long charge times and limited range of conventional electric powertrains by using hydrogen as a fuel source.

The Skai uses a six-rotor propulsion system and is targeting a flight time of 4 hours, which works out to around 400 miles of range. It was designed with the help of BMW's Designworks and will have a cargo capacity of 1,000 pounds and can carry five people.

The initial version of the Skai to see production will be designed around a human pilot, but later versions could be ground-piloted or totally autonomous. Normally we'd guffaw at the idea of full autonomy (as we do whenever a carmaker claims to have a self-driving concept), but autonomous flight seems a little closer to reality than its ground-based cousin.

"Skai offers practical, real-life solutions to everything from relieving traffic congestion to delivering supplies during natural disasters," Brian Morrison, co-founder, president and CTO of Alaka'i Technologies, said in a statement. "Skai is set to offer affordable, realistic applications in the commercial, private, freight and personal air mobility markets."

Alaka'i's press release doesn't mention where it's getting its fuel cell tech from, but it does state that the company has initiated its test program with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It's not clear when the company expects the Skai to be certified or when we could realistically see a working prototype, but it's all very exciting nonetheless.

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