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Zero Emissions Aircraft Takes First Flight

July 8, 2009

On Tuesday, the world’s first piloted fuel cell powered aircraft took off from an airfield in Germany, leaving zero carbon dioxide emissions in its wake.

“We have improved the performance capabilities and efficiency of the fuel cell to such an extent that a piloted aircraft is now able to take off using it,” said Johann-Dietrich Woerner from the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

“This enables us to demonstrate the true potential of this technology, also and perhaps specifically for applications in the aerospace sector,” he told the AFP.

The Antares DLR-H2 motor glider, which was developed by the DLR, Lange Aviation, BASF Fuel Cells, and Denmark’s Serenergy, can fly for five hours, has a range of 465 miles, and has a lower noise footprint than comparable gliders.

It can currently fly at a maximum speed of 105 mph.

The propulsion system works by converting hydrogen into electrical energy through an electrochemical reaction with oxygen in the ambient air, without combustion.

Water is the system’s only by-product.

According to DLR, the motor glider is genuinely CO2-free if the hydrogen fuel is produced using renewable energy sources.

“Although the fuel cell may still be a long way from becoming the primary energy source for the propulsion of commercial aircraft, it does already constitute an interesting and important alternative to existing energy systems as a form of reliable on-board power supply,” the DLR said.

Future Antares DLR-H2 tests will take place in Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg for the next three years.

Image 1: The Antares DLR-H2 during its technical flight trial in June 2009 at Zweibrcken. The fuel cell is slung under the left wing and the hydrogen tank under the right wing ““ with a capacity of either 2 or 4.9 kilograms. The fuel cell system used to power the Antares delivers up to 25 kilowatts of electrical power, and when flying in a straight line, the aircraft only requires about ten kilowatts of power. In this situation, the fuel cell is operating at an efficiency level of approximately 52 percent. Credit: DLR

Image 2: The hydrogen tank slung under the right wing has a capacity of either 2 or 4.9 kg. The fuel cell is slung under the left wing. The fuel cell system used to power the Antares delivers up to 25 kilowatts of electrical power and, when flying in a straight line, the aircraft only requires about ten kilowatts of power. The total efficiency of the drive system from tank to powertrain, including the propeller, is in the region of 44 percent ““ making it about twice as efficient as conventional propulsion technologies based on combustion processes. Credit: DLR

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Zero Emissions Aircraft Takes First Flight


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