Mark van Wyk, a private pilot and entrepreneur from Cape Town, walked away with the first prize at the first AVI Awards for his prototype UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) that will become the first hydrogen powered aircraft fully developed in South Africa.
The awards, introduced last night at the Avi Afrique Innovation Summit at the CSIR ICC in Pretoria, is a culmination of the partnership between the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS).
Van Wyk, founder of the company FlyH2 Aerospace and his partner, Onno Huyser, are developing a large, fixed-wing unmanned aircraft for survey and environmental research purposes. The aircraft will be powered by novel miniaturised hydrogen fuel cells designed, prototyped and trialled by TIA Seed Fund recipients at the University of Cape Town, HySA Catalysis.
FlyH2 Aerospace is a licensee for the patented fuel cell technology and the partnership with the HySA team demonstrates that when industry-university collaborations have clear shared goals, each partner’s role is understood and their projects are well-managed by university technology transfer offices; they are capable of developing potentially ground breaking technologies.
The hydrogen fuel cells would provide an electric propulsion alternative which is carbon neutral, has zero-emission and completely environmentally friendly. They will also enable the UAV to survey larger areas for environmental research at lower energy cost and environmental risk.
Among other uses, South African researchers will potentially be enabled to gather comprehensive and important earth observation data with the intention of improving land-use, planning and environmental management; which in turn will add to improved sustainability management.
The AVI Awards, which will be held annually welcomes submissions covering various categories including Students from Grade 10-12 who may have developed any innovative concept, emerging innovators for individuals with no formal tertiary qualifications but are involved in the development of various innovations, professional Innovators who hold a degree or postgraduate degree, women innovators for women aged from 19 years old who are involved in aeronautical innovation in any form and research/educational institutions for any institution involved in research or education and this is specific and related to aviation.
Reshleu Rampershad, head of the Advanced Manufacturing Unit at TIA, comments: “The Technology Innovation Agency is proud to partner with ATNS in its inaugural Innovation Awards and views this collaboration as key in unlocking the innovative capacity in the Civil Aviation space. We look forward to jointly developing local technology solutions to the challenges this industry faces in the areas of advanced manufacturing and other related areas. The 2015 sponsorship is the first step towards realizing this.”
ATNS CEO Thabani Mthiyane adds: “The entries received simply shows that our stakeholders are diverse – the media, industry and ordinary South Africans participated. We are encouraged by the commitment and passion shown by all entrants to submit their work. The message is clear – there is innovation within the aviation space that remains largely undiscovered.”