Slovenian aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel is working on a zero-emission regional aircraft with 20 seats, which should be available between 2028 and 2030. The Miniliner concept now unveiled could fly on hydrogen, although Pipistrel says it is still evaluating various propulsion solutions.
The regional aircraft is expected to be able to achieve ranges of up to 1,000 kilometres and take off and land on runways less than one kilometre long – including grass runways at small airfields. Pipistrel is pushing the development of the regional aircraft as part of the EU-funded UNIFIER19 project together with the Politecnico di Milano and the Delft University of Technology.
The aim of the project is to design a near-zero emission aircraft so that it can connect smaller airports with each other and with hubs, and perform both scheduled and on-demand feeder flights. UNIFIER 19 is designed to take advantage of Europe’s sparse, underutilized network of small airports and offer commuters a radical new mobility experience that will be as easy to use as a bus, it says. Avised are flights to cover distances between 200 and 1,000 kilometres.
Pipistrel is aiming for an EIS (“Entry into Service”) certification for the new regional aircraft between 2028 and 2030. According to the Slovenian aircraft manufacturer, the advantage is that the concepts on the table are designed to get by without major infrastructural investments. To address “current regulatory, operational and technological challenges,” Pipistrel says it is working with European organizations Clean Aviation, SESAR and EASA. It also said several industry partnership initiatives are underway.
Pipistrel is working in parallel on several electrified models – including hybrid unmanned aircraft for cargo flights. But the Slovenian company is furthest along with the Velis Electro two-seat battery-powered aircraft, which became the first all-electric aircraft to receive a type certificate from the European Aviation Safety Agency in mid-2020. Speaking of which, just a few days ago the manufacturer announced that Green Aerolease had ordered 50 units of the Velis Electro.