The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched a new competition to encourage the industry to invest more in the future of hydrogen as an aviation fuel, backed by almost £1m ($1.25m) in funding. 

The Hydrogen Challenge will use a regulatory sandbox approach to ensure the authority’s regulations are appropriate for the upcoming technology while reducing difficulties in advancing the fuel. It will encourage industry and academic collaboration to identify policy gaps and propose new recommendations. 

Sophie O’Sullivan, head of future safety and innovation at the CAA, said: “The project will help facilitate efforts to move towards a net zero aviation sector by supporting the industry to explore how feasible the introduction of hydrogen is and how we can make sure regulation is fit for purpose. 

“Enabling innovation while maintaining safety is a key part of our work and this challenge is a clear example of our collaborative approach to shaping the future of aviation.” 

The £940,000 grant-based fund is backed by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s Regulators’ Pioneer Fund and is part of the CAA’s wider sustainability strategy. 

Though much of the aviation industry’s attention has been on the use of sustainable aviation fuel as a low-emissions alternative to traditional jet fuel, hydrogen has also been the focus of much investment. 

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This includes another UK Government initiative that saw two hydrogen-focused projects win a share of £8m to look at the use of the fuel for airport ground services vehicles and the construction of refuelling stations for road vehicles. 

Internationally, companies such as Universal Hydrogen have been working on designs to retrofit aircraft to run on hydrogen, with the US-based company recently receiving a G-1 Issue Paper from the Federal Aviation Administration for its technology. 

The CAA’s Hydrogen Challenge will run until 28 February 2025, and a Regulatory Sandbox to assist applicants will open soon.