Delta Air Lines and Airbus announced today the launch of a new collaboration agreement, which will see the airline and aircraft manufacturer working together to explore the development of hydrogen-powered aviation.

The aviation industry is coming under increasing scrutiny as a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, responsible for 2-3% of global emissions, with that figure potentially rising dramatically over the coming decades if no action is taken. Earlier this month, investor engagement network Climate Action 100+ outlined a series of expectations for airlines to follow in order to align with the IEA’s 2050 net zero scenario, including commitments to ramp the use of sustainable aviation fuels, and to limit the growth in air travel overall.

Julie Kitcher, Airbus E.V.P. Communications & Corporate Affairs, said:

“To decarbonize aviation, we need to develop the right technology bricks and a dynamic hydrogen eco-system. Through close collaboration with key partners, such as Delta, we will integrate our customers’ expertise and specific needs to ensure our zero-emission aircraft will be a game-changer for sustainable aerospace.”

Hydrogen is viewed as one of the key building blocks of the transition to a cleaner energy future, particularly for sectors with difficult to abate emissions – such as aviation – in which renewable energy solutions such as wind or solar are less practical. Despite being the most abundant element in the universe, however, there are no pure hydrogen deposits on Earth and it must be extracted from other materials. Significant investments are required to develop hydrogen ecosystems and clean extraction processes, such as green hydrogen, which uses a renewable energy-powered electrolysis process to extract hydrogen from water.

Focus areas under the new collaboration agreement between Delta and Airbus will include exploring the viability of hydrogen-fueled aircraft, including identifying challenges such as flight range limits, refueling time and airport compatibility, assessing the infrastructure that will be needed to develop and scale green hydrogen, and coalition building with key industry stakeholders.

Pam Fletcher, Delta’s Chief Sustainability Officer, said:

“To pull the future of sustainable aviation forward, we need to accelerate the development and commercialization of potentially disruptive technologies. Hydrogen fuel is an exciting concept that has the potential to redefine the status quo. These tangible steps lay the groundwork for the next generation of aviation.”