In October 2008, I had talked about the Antares DLR H2 fuel cell airplane being the world’s first manned hydrogen fuel cell aircraft without a hybrid assist to take flight. In April 2008, I had talked about the manned Boeing fuel cell hybrid airplane being the world’s first manned hydrogen hybrid airplane to take flight.
Well, once again, the Antares DLR H2 is spreading its wings, so to speak, to take flight proving that a fuel cell powered airplane don’t need no stinkin’ hybrid assist. In fact, one of the main points of this manned fuel cell flight was to prove that the aircraft could take off from a landing strip (not towed by another aircraft to altitude) and take off and land on its own.
According to Dr-Ing Johann-Dietrich Wörner, “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. This enables us to demonstrate the true potential of this technology, also and perhaps specifically for applications in the aerospace sector. Coupled with our expertise in fuel cell technology, DLR’s many years of extensive experience in gaining official approval for aerospace systems are what made the Antares DLR-H2 a feasible proposition.”
The Antares DLR H2 has a maximum flying speed of around 102 mph with a range of around 450 miles. The fuel cell sits underneath the left side of the airplane wing while the hydrogen storage tank sits under the right wing.
As any pilot will tell you the most thrust needed for any aircraft is during takeoff (which is why many space tourism vehicles being tested today are hauled to high altitudes first before firing), so the Antares DLR H2 fuel cell only airplane has made significant strides in proving it can takeoff and land under fuel cell only power.
What this bodes next for the aircraft industry at this point is anyone’s guess. Using hydrogen to power onboard electrical systems on larger aircraft is a logical next step. So is ground transportation around airports. But, somewhere in the not too distant future, small airplanes will be taking off and landing using hydrogen fuel cells.
Perhaps also one day soon the building of large scale hydrogen refueling stations at small airports will outpace the auto infrastructure. While hydrogen is now, the future is still wide open.