Africa’s first Hydrogen fuel cell aircraft scoops award


Mark van Wyk, a private pilot and entrepreneur from Cape Town, has won the first prize at the inaugural AVI Awards for his prototype UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). By Staff Writer

Van Wyk’s UAV will become the first hydrogen powered aircraft in Africa, fully developed in South Africa.

The awards are a culmination of the partnership between the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS).

Van Wyk, founder of the company FlyH2 Aerospace and his partner, Onno Huyser, is developing a large, fixed-wing unmanned aircraft for survey and environmental research purposes.

The aircraft will be powered by novel miniaturised hydrogen fuel cells designed, prototyped and trialled by TIA Seed Fund recipients at the University of Cape Town, HySA Catalysis.

FlyH2 Aerospace is a licensee for the patented fuel cell technology and the partnership with the HySA team demonstrates that when industry-University collaborations have clear shared goals, each partner’s role is understood and their projects are well-managed by University technology transfer offices; they are capable of developing potentially ground breaking technologies.

The Hydrogen fuel cells would provide an electric propulsion alternative which is carbon neutral, has zero-emission and completely environmentally friendly.

The Hydrogen fuel cells will enable the UAV to survey larger areas for environmental research at lower energy cost and environmental risk. Among other uses, South African researchers will potentially be enabled to gather comprehensive and important earth observation data with the intention of improving land-use, planning and environmental management; which in turn will add to improved sustainability management.

 “We look forward to jointly (with ATNS) developing local technology solutions to the challenges this industry faces in the areas of advanced manufacturing and other related areas. The 2015 sponsorship is the first step towards realizing this,” says Reshleu Rampershad, head of the advanced manufacturing unit at TIA.



  1. Something small and bright is emerging on the horizon — by way of delivery drones. These drone make business sense only if they can carry a decent payload, stay airborne as long as necessary, refuel quickly, and head out again with a new load. All that is possible only with hydrogen. Which means there’ll be investment in that direction — and technology that can be transferred to cars and trucks. Remember, a small hydrogen fuel cell can recharge a battery car — even when it’s parked.


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