Skip to main content

Advanced Technology

Latest Insights & Resources

Hydrogen Fact Sheet


Axios What’s Next

Learn More

The science behind electric- and hydrogen-powered flight

Learn More


To test new technologies with partners around safety, efficiency and sustainability, Boeing leverages several technology demonstrator airplanes.

Technology demonstrator

Since it first took flight in 2012, the Boeing ecoDemonstrator program has accelerated innovation by taking promising technologies out of the lab and testing them in the air to solve real-world challenges for airlines, passengers and the environment.

The latest ecoDemonstrator is a Boeing-owned 777-200ER that will test about 30 projects that can make aviation safer and more sustainable.

Projects include technologies that improve sustainability and safety for the aerospace industry, including a water conservation system and technologies to improve operational efficiency. Other projects focus on efficiency, additive manufacturing, sustainable aviation fuel and an enhanced vision system for pilots.

NASA Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD)

The SFD project will enable partnership across the industry to validate the advanced airframe configuration and related technologies. Some of these technologies will include the Boeing transonic truss-based wing (TTBW), advanced aircraft propulsion systems, high-rate composites, and several others.

NASA has selected Boeing and its industry partners to develop and flight test a full-scale TTBW Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD) with expected reductions of fuel burn and emissions of up to 30% relative to current best-in-class, single-aisle airplanes.

The SFD project will enable partnership across the industry to validate the advanced airframe configuration and related technologies. Some of these technologies will include the TTBW, advanced aircraft propulsion systems, high-rate composites, and several others.


Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration (EPFD)

GE Aerospace has selected Boeing to support flight tests of its hybrid electric propulsion system using a modified Saab 340B aircraft and CT7 turboprop engines. This is part of a NASA and GE Aerospace research partnership to mature a megawatt (MW) class hybrid electric propulsion system to demonstrate flight readiness for single-aisle aircraft.

Boeing and its subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences will provide GE Aerospace with airplane modification, system integration and flight-testing services. That work includes nacelle manufacturing, flight deck interface design and software, aircraft-level performance analysis, and systems integration.

This is part of a NASA and GE Aerospace research partnership to mature a megawatt (MW) class hybrid electric propulsion system to demonstrate flight readiness for single-aisle aircraft. 

Hybrid electric propulsion

A decade of accelerating innovation

Since it first took flight in 2012, the Boeing ecoDemonstrator program and its industry partners have accelerated innovation by taking promising technologies out of the lab and testing them in the air to solve real-world challenges for airlines, passengers and the environment. The ecoDemonstrator flies on the highest approved blend of sustainable aviation fuel.

230+ technologies tested, focused on:

  • Enhancing safety
  • Reduction in fuel use & emissions
  • Operational efficiency
  • Community noise
  • Replacement of hazardous materials
  • Sustainable materials
  • Advanced aerodynamics
  • Passenger experience

1/3 implemented

on Boeing aircraft or partner products

1/3 provided

important learnings but were discontinued

1/3 progressed

in technical development

10 years of the ecoDemonstrator

American Airlines Next-Generation 737

The 2012 ecoDemonstrator tested regenerative hydrogen fuel cells and an advanced technology winglet, which is now a basic feature on the 737 MAX family.

Next-Generation 737

Boeing 787-8

The 2014 ecoDemonstrator focused on operational efficiency and community noise, and tested touch-screen displays that are now standard on the new 777X family.

Boeing 787-8

TUI 757

The 2015 ecoDemonstrator installed a sustainable, printed flight-deck aisle stand, using additive manufacturing. At the end of the flight test program, the airplane was evaluated for end-of-service recycling and found that up to 90% of the airplane by weight is recyclable.

TUI 757


The 2016 ecoDemonstrator tested blends of sustainable aviation fuel and optical air data, which used light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology to measure true speed, angle of attack and outside temperature. An ice-phobic paint coat was assessed for performance of ice release.


FedEx 777F

The 2018 ecoDemonstrator program made the world’s first commercial airplane flight using 100% paraffinic sustainable aviation fuel. It also tested a LIDAR system developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency that enhanced safety by detecting clear air turbulence.

Formation Flying

A key learning from Defense Services is formation flying — two or more aircraft traveling together, mimicking how birds fly in the sky. Testing showed potential emissions reductions of up to 6%. This application isn’t available in civil aerospace, but the C-17 has tested this technology with Boeing with the SAVE program and since implemented the technology into its military operations.

FedEx 777F

Boeing 777-200

The 2019 ecoDemonstrator tested new vortex generators — small, vertical vanes on the wings that improve an airplane’s aerodynamic efficiency during takeoff and landing, reducing carbon emissions. The platform also tests connected cabin technologies.

Boeing 777-200

Etihad Airways 787-10

The 2020 ecoDemonstrator conducted sound measurements to improve airplane noise prediction capabilities, and to inform future quiet aircraft designs. This partnership facilitated the most extensive noise test ever conducted on a commercial airliner. The data collected will improve airplane noise prediction capabilities.

Etihad Airways 787-10


The 2021 ecoDemonstrator continues testing with sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) including launching a partnership with NASA and other industry stakeholders to characterize SAF emissions. It is also testing recycled carbon fiber sidewalls and partnered with NOAA to test greenhouse gas emissions.


Boeing 777-200ER

The 2022 ecoDemonstrator is testing a gray water reuse system to save weight and water on the airplane, an environmentally friendly refrigerant, and will continue its testing with NASA on sustainable aviation fuel.

Boeing 777-200ER

Future Flight Concepts

Boeing is studying a range of Future Flight Concepts which are novel aircraft designs focused on developing the art of the possible for applications of alternative energy and propulsion technologies. This includes designs focused on hydrogen fuel cell electric and hydrogen combustion as well as hybrid-electric and other technologies. Informed by the company’s history of aircraft design for efficiency, energy & propulsion expertise, and research partnerships, these studies iteratively deepen our understanding of the aircraft physics, safety and certification challenges, required technology development and future market applicability.

Future Flight Concepts

Boeing’s Hydrogen Projects

Boeing has conducted six demonstration projects and has extensive experience using hydrogen for a launch vehicle and space applications. While the technology for hydrogen propulsion is not as ready to implement as sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), Boeing continues to study hydrogen as a means to achieving the industry’s net zero 2050 carbon emissions goal. With almost 20 years of research and experience, we fully understand the challenges that exist and are well positioned to overcome them.


Boeing's Fuel Cell Demonstrator, a two-seat Dimona, flew three flights in Spain — representing the first piloted airplane in history to use power generated solely by hydrogen fuel cells.


Our ecoDemonstrator program tested similar regenerative fuel cell technology for onboard auxiliary power applications on a Next-Generation 737-800.

Boeing's Phantom Eye high-altitude and long-endurance uncrewed aircraft flew several flights in California powered by liquid hydrogen.


A second project in Spain completed over 100 hydrogen flights on an uncrewed flight demonstrator.


Insitu completed the first flight of its ScanEagle3 unmanned aerial vehicle powered by an all-electric, hydrogen fueled, proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell.


A new type of composite cryogenic fuel tank was designed and manufactured by Boeing, signifying that this lightweight storage technology is mature, ready and safe for use in aerospace vehicles.

What is hydrogen fuel?

As hydrogen is not naturally available for use as fuel, it is classified as an energy carrier and not an energy source. As a result, the sustainability impact depends entirely on the resources used to produce the hydrogen. Hydrogen sourced via renewable energy, often termed green hydrogen, is suitable, whereas hydrogen produced from steam methane reformation (SMR) typically has a sustainability outcome worse than burning fossil-derived Jet-A. More than 95% of hydrogen produced today is produced via SMR.

What is hydrogen propulsion?

Hydrogen can be burned “conventionally” in a gas turbine engine much like Jet-A or it can be used in combination with a fuel cell to produce electricity, which then powers an electric motor and propulsor.

What challenges exist with producing hydrogen?

In addition to requiring an energy source to be produced, the hydrogen must be distributed and stored, which will require significant investment. To make hydrogen widely available to support commercial aviation, a new global infrastructure would be required, including at each individual airport.

What challenges exist with storing hydrogen?

One of the key challenges with onboard energy storage of hydrogen is that while hydrogen is almost three times as energy dense as jet fuels per unit mass, hydrogen has a much lower energy per unit volume. As a result, the tanks needed to store the hydrogen will have to be four times as large as current fuel tanks. And whereas jet fuel can be effectively stored in the wings, hydrogen will most likely be stored in the body of the aircraft due to the need for cylindrical cryogenic storage at -253C.


Boeing’s work in electric aviation includes partnerships such as Wisk to develop, test and certify all-electric vehicles and their safe deployment in the airspace.

Wisk, a Boeing Joint Venture, is developing an electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) air taxi which will represent a first-ever candidate for the certification of autonomous, passenger-carrying air taxi in the U.S.

Wisk air taxi

What is battery-electric propulsion?

Battery-electric propulsion utilizes batteries and electric motors as a mechanism to propel the aircraft. In order to make this type of propulsion possible, wings and propellers are placed at locations that minimize drag and maximize lift which may differ from traditional propulsion.

What are some advantages with battery-electric?

While a battery-electric flight can only achieve a fraction of the range supported by a normal combustion engine, it has higher power-conversion efficiency (two to three times more efficient) and significantly lower maintenance requirements. Other benefits of electric propulsion include zero emissions during flight, significant noise level reduction, and shorter runways for takeoff and landing. The use of electric also lowers operating costs through reduced maintenance costs since there are far fewer moving parts. For example, Wisk’s air vehicle only has 12 moving parts!

Are there other emissions to consider with battery-electric?

There are two other significant categories of emissions to consider with battery-electric propulsion. The first is the emissions involved with the production of the battery. It is important that the battery technology is manufactured sustainably, including mitigating lifecycle emissions during the production process. The second is that the source of electricity used to charge the battery packs comes from renewable energy grids.

What are some limitations with battery-electric?

The key limitation with battery-electric propulsion is its low energy density (Wh/kg). To put this into perspective, Jet A fuel has an energy density of 12,000 Wh/kg while the most advanced batteries such as lithium-ion have the density of 200 Wh/kg at the pack-level. Even if you were to double the energy density to 400wh/kg, the pack-level will still not be sufficient to enable the ranges of our commercial core market products. This challenge is why the current battery technology only enables small payloads and short distances. Other key challenges include safety and certification activities as well as changes in current airport infrastructure.