World’s First Manned Fuel Cell Aircraft Lifts Off (July 20, 2009) — The world’s first manned Antares DLR-H2 aircraft with the ability to take-off using power from fuel cells takes to the German skies. The experimental aircraft has a maximum range of 750 km and can reach speeds of up to 170 km/h.

fuel cell aircraftThe power to the motor is provided by a fuel cell. A fuel cell is a generator that converts fuel – in this case hydrogen – directly into electricity, using electrochemical reaction with oxygen in the atmosphere.

The fuel cell generates up to 25 kilowatts of electricity, for take-off, but once the aircraft is in the cruise mode, then it supplies the motor with 10 kilowatts.

It is claimed that the efficiency of the drive system from tank to the propeller is about 44 percent, which is about twice as efficient as the commonly used internal combustion engines. The fuel cells could be a viable alternative source of energy for future aircraft.

The aircraft is developed by Germany’s Lange Aviation, BASF and German Aerospace Center (DLR), and Denmark’s Serenergy.

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