The project, dubbed Blue Condor, revealed on Wednesday (July 20), will launch two modified Arcus gliders, one equipped with hydrogen combustion engines, and the other with a conventional kerosene-powered engine, to compare contrails emitted at high altitudes.

With test flights scheduled for late 2022, to ensure comparable data between the hydrogen and conventional engine, Airbus has said the test flights will be carried out back-to-back under the same meteorological conditions, in North Dakota, US, in collaboration with the University of Dakota.

Additionally, the German Research Centre DLR is planned to collect and analyse data captured from the test flights, using its own measurement instrumentation sensors on a chase aircraft.

H2 View understands that the Perlan Project team, an Airbus project attempting to fly a Perlan 2 glider to 90,000 feet at the edge of space, will be responsible for the glider modifications and will provide the same pilot who set the 2018 world subsonic altitude record of 76,124 feet.

The announcement of the Blue Condor project comes after Airbus unveiled its ZEROe concept aircrafts, designed to fly on hydrogen in October 2021, with the goal of bringing the first zero-emission commercial aircraft into service by 2035.

Read more: A seismic shift for aviation: Airbus sets its sights on hydrogen powering the future of aircraft

Sandra Bour Schaeffer, CEO of Airbus UpNext, said, “Contrail characterisation is of significant interest to Airbus. We know that hydrogen emits no carbon dioxide when burned, but we also know that with water vapour and heat being the most significant by-products, hydrogen combustion does produce contrails.

“Although these contrails differ significantly to those produced by conventional JetA/A1 combustion engines, understanding their composition will be key to support our decarbonisation journey.

“In taking up this challenge we are making significant headway in our decarbonisation strategy and our ambition to bring the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft into service by 2035.”


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