The aerospace market has a new kid on the block – hydrogen-powered aircraft. How will this impact recruitment?
With more of us becoming increasingly aware of the impact our day to day lives can have on the planet, many companies are now working to create eco-friendly solutions to help prolong our world for future generations. From the UK ban on plastic drinking straws to the rise of electronic cars, every little helps with leading a more sustainable lifestyle. But now there is a new kid on the block – hydrogen-powered aeroplanes.
Research shows air travel currently accounts for over 12% of total transportation emissions and is growing at a rapid rate, set to double by 2050. But this could be reduced as aircraft developers shift towards sustainable flying methods, such as zero-emission hydrogen-electric aeroplanes. By using hydrogen fuel as a power source instead of traditional fuel, planes only emit water whilst still being able to travel at just under the average speed of aircraft with engines running on jet fuel.
Companies such as ZeroAvia are currently working towards engineering renewably powered hydrogen-electric aircraft. By creating a hydrogen-powered engine to place inside existing aircraft models, ZeroAvia combines fan blades, an air compression system and inverters with a fuel cell stack, where the chemistry of turning hydrogen into power takes place.
But it’s not all plain sailing (or flying!) for these companies – combining several complex technologies to invent a new method of air transportation requires attaining experienced people and moulding their knowledge together.
So, what does this mean for recruitment?
With the emergence of brand-new technologies, comes a natural gap in the knowledge and skills needed to really get an idea off the ground (literally!). With hydrogen fuel never having been used in aviation before, valuable experience can be drawn from the automotive market – where companies like Toyota, Hyundai and Honda have already developed cars that use hydrogen gas to power an electric motor.
From air compression to electric motors, many technologies which would benefit the development of sustainable flying already exist and conveniently, people working within the automotive market are rich in transferable skills and knowledge, coming from organisations like Nikola Motor Company, Audi and Ballards. Where some technologies do stretch between both the aerospace and automotive industries, some skills are currently exclusive to the automotive sector, meaning candidates with experience in this market are already in high demand.
Getting the talent they need
The technology behind electric cars goes hand in hand with how companies hope to change the face of flying. The skills and knowledge that goes into electric motors, fuel cell stacks, power electronics and air compression within the automotive industry are invaluable in the development of hydrogen-powered aeroplanes.
As we continue to see success and growth in the use of hydrogen in the aerospace market, the number of roles opening up to experienced candidates is likely to rise. The prospect of working on completely new, clean-sheet projects will provide a compelling reason for this pool of talent to consider the transition. You are not inheriting something or simply “copying and pasting”, you get to influence the technology from the very beginning. High salaries always help but can sometimes create the wrong culture. It will be the nature of what these guys are doing, how much fun they have doing it, rather than how much they will be paid that will enable these environments to build and retain the most capable teams.
Looking to the future
Not only is a wide range of collaborative knowledge needed to establish a reliable hydrogen-powered method, but solutions for the future of the sector are also necessary. Due to the dangers hydrogen presents in terms of being highly flammable and explosive, issues arise when taking into consideration where the fuel is to be stored – especially if renewable flying is to really take off and become available for use by larger, commercial aircraft. Again, candidates who have experience in the general handling and storage of hydrogen may soon find themselves in high demand.
How do you think hydrogen-powered aeroplanes will go on to impact the future of the aviation sector?