Project Fresson

Sustainable Aerospace Propulsion

Ricardo joined a Cranfield Aerospace Solutions led consortium to consolidate and grow its hydrogen fuel cell and propulsion capabilities so that the business can achieve its ambition of becoming a world-leader in hydrogen and fuel cell services and solutions and help accelerate net zero transportation.

Demonstrating that sustainable propulsion technology has a clear route to market, the Cranfield Aerospace Solutions project will accelerate the journey to zero-emissions, passenger-carrying services.


Project Fresson aimed to deliver an emission-free (zero CO2), hydrogen fuel cell powered flying demonstrator.

Having completed a comprehensive evaluation of technologies and configurations for sustainable aircraft propulsion, the Project Fresson team concluded that hydrogen fuel cell technology is the optimum solution to meet environmental, regulatory, and operational requirements for a specific size of aircraft, enabling zero carbon emissions and reducing operating costs.

This presented the Project Fresson consortium with an opportunity to deliver an enhanced technology programme that surpasses the original demonstrator concept. 

Ricardo was challenged to support Project Fresson to play its part in helping to reduce the carbon footprint for commercial air passengers. By advising on hydrogen fuel cell and propulsion systems and integration.   

Ricardo is providing the fuel cell system including its controller, which is the primary source of electricity on the aircraft. The system includes the fuel cell stack and the balance of plant. 

Fuel cell systems use hydrogen and oxygen from ambient air to generate electricity. The only by-product is water vapour, and hence a hydrogen fuel cell aircraft has zero carbon emissions. 


Ricardo has used the following approach to support the first phase of Project Fresson:

  • A focus on the development of advanced sustainable propulsion technologies
  • Providing bespoke advice and support, in addition to technical expertise
  • Ricardo brings experience in systems engineering and model-based development, as well as expertise in fuel cell and thermal systems development


  • This represented a new opportunity to be part of a consortium to exploit advancements in hydrogen fuel cell technology to develop a commercially viable, retrofit powertrain solution for a nine-passenger Britten-Norman Islander aircraft
  • It is a critical project examining the successful integration and exploitation of hydrogen fuel cell power systems in aerospace applications


  • The client gains access to Ricardo expertise in hydrogen fuel cell power systems and integration
  • This project will help Ricardo build on its existing reputation for the innovative design and delivery of future-forward solutions for aerospace customers, creating clean, efficient, and integrated propulsion systems for next generation aircraft and building on our vision to create a safe and sustainable world
  • This project supports the possibility of future phased work with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions
  • As a result of this project, Ricardo has further demonstrated its expertise in hydrogen fuel cell technology. It enables the business to explore future opportunities with client across the hydrogen application and aerospace industries


Project Fresson is supported by the ATI Programme, a joint Government and industry investment to maintain and  grow the UK’s competitive position in civil aerospace design and manufacture. The programme, delivered through a 
partnership between the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK, addresses technology, capability and supply chain challenges.


Cranfield Aerospace Solutions

Key Services

Engineering, design and development
Systems engineering and integration
Software development and applications

Start and end dates

01/2020 - 12/2023



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