Britten-Norman, manufacturers of the Islander aircraft, and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS), a hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion technology company, have signed a Heads of Terms agreement, signalling their intention to merge and to create the “world’s first fully integrated, zero-emissions sub regional aircraft for entry into service in 2026,” according to a joint company press release.
“The merger is due to complete in mid-2023, subject to final due diligence,” continues the release. “In a funding round led by HydrogenOne Capital Growth Plc (“HydrogenOne”), a consortium of CAeS investors comprising HydrogenOne, Safran Corporate Ventures (the corporate venture arm of Safran, a leading aerospace company), and the UAE-based investment firm Strategic Development Fund (SDF) will invest up to UKP10 million in the new company, including up to UKP5 million investment from HydrogenOne once the merger is finalised. Cranfield University and Motus Ventures will continue to retain shares in the new business. Britten-Norman’s existing owners, including lead investor Alawi Zawawi, will also join the new business. The investment will anchor further funding that is currently being raised to support the growth of the merged entity.
“The new entity is responding to the growing demand from airlines and operators for an OEM-backed aircraft that will enable their move to zero-emissions operations….The Britten-Norman Islander, a nine-seat regional aircraft widely used by operators around the world for inter-island services and short hop operations is in high demand for its proven ability to operate from smaller airports and short airstrips in all weather conditions, often providing vital lifelines for remote communities.”
“The company’s ambition extends beyond the Islander and the sub-regional market, with the intention to design and manufacture new ‘clean sheet’ aircraft up to 100 seats powered using zero carbon technology.”
The two companies have been collaborating on Project Fresson for over two years, a project set up to develop the technologies required to enable the hydrogen propulsion system for the Islander. The project has been backed by the UK Government, via the UK Aerospace Technology Institute, and has secured over UKP14 million in private funding from global investors.
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