Britten-Norman, manufacturers of the iconic Islander aircraft and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS), pioneers in hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion technology, have signed a Heads of Terms agreement, signalling their intention to merge and to create the world’s first fully integrated, zero-emissions sub-regional aircraft for entry into service in 2026.
The merger is due to complete in mid-2023, subject to final due diligence. In a funding round led by HydrogenOne Capital Growth Plc (HydrogenOne), a consortium of CAeS investors comprising HydrogenOne, Safran Corporate Ventures (the corporate venture arm of Safran) and the UAE-based investment firm Strategic Development Fund (SDF) will invest up to £10 million in the new company, includingan up-to £5 million investment from HydrogenOne once the merger is finalised. Cranfield University and Motus Ventures will continue to retain shares in the new business. Britten-Norman’s existing owners, including lead investor Alawi Zawawi, will also join the new business. The investment will anchor further funding that is currently being raised to support the growth of the merged entity.
The new entity is responding to the growing demand from airlines and operators for an OEM-backed aircraft that will enable their move to zero-emissions operations. By combining CAeS’s pioneering development of a hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion system with the existing and proven Britten-Norman aircraft technology, a clear and unambiguous route to market has been created with certification for passenger-carrying service planned for 2026.
The Britten-Norman Islander, a nine-seat regional aircraft widely used by operators around the world for inter-island services and short hop operations is in high demand for its proven ability to operate from smaller airports and short airstrips in all weather conditions, often providing vital lifelines for remote communities.
The company’s ambition extends beyond the Islander and the sub-regional market, with the intention to design and manufacture new ‘clean sheet’ aircraft up to 100 seats powered using zero carbon technology.