Developers of a multi-rotor hover craft billed as the first flying vehicle to be powered by hydrogen fuel cells unveiled a full-scale model on Wednesday in Southern California, in a show-and-tell that raised some eyebrows but never left the ground.
Engineering and avionics for the drone-like vehicle were developed by Alaka’i Technologies, a privately held company based in Massachusetts but named for a tropical forest in Hawaii ranked as one of the wettest spots on Earth.
The BMW unit contributed to the craft’s design.
The company touts the Skai craft as a promising new zero-emissions mode of personal airborne transport ideal for Southern California, a region long plagued by smog and renowned for traffic gridlock of epic proportions.
While several car makers have struggled to bring hydrogen fuel cell technology into the automotive mainstream, Alaka’i describes its invention as the “world’s first hydrogen fuel cell-powered air mobility solution.”
The mock-up displayed on Wednesday, about the size of a minivan, resembles a sleek, five-seat SUV with landing skids and an array of six horizontal rotors attached at the end of arms protruding from the roof of the craft. It was all for looks.
The display model is a replica of the company’s only full-size operational prototype, which is expected to begin remote-controlled test flights soon at the firm’s Massachusetts lab, said Chief Executive Officer Steve Hanvey.