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Sun, Apr 22, 2007

The HyFish Hydrogen UAV Makes History

Zero Emission, Hydrogen Fuel Cell Jet Performs Flawlessly

The world's first zero emission, hydrogen fuel cell jet lived up to expectations last week, as it took to the skies of Bern, Switzerland, flawlessly performing vertical climbs, loops and other aerial acrobatics at speeds that reached more than 120 miles per hour.  

The flights were the result of a several-year collaborative effort between the German Air & Space Center (DLR) and international partners, including Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, a Singapore-registered company whose main operations are in China.

The flight test proved significant achievements in design challenges, both in terms of weight per horsepower, as well as in terms of mechanical load, according to a press release.

Horizon provided the fuel cell that powered the flight of this next-generation Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). UAVs are one of the most demanding applications for emerging hydrogen fuel cell power technologies due to constraints of size, weight, and aerodynamics.

Scientists at Stuttgart's DLR Institute for Technical Thermodynamics integrated Horizon's ultra-light and compact fuel cell system into an aircraft with a total weight of just 13.2 pounds. The HyFish has a fuselage length of just four feet and a short 3.3 foot-wingspan.

Unlike previous experiments, this is the first time a fast plane with jet wings was able to fly with a hydrogen fuel cell as its only power source.

The special fuel cell designed by Horizon's team produces an electrical power output of 1 kilowatt from a total system weight of only 6.6 pounds, which includes the pressurized hydrogen tank.

The Hyfish hydrogen jet is the second small high-tech aircraft to fly with Horizon fuel cells in less than one year. The company's first fuel cell UAV development began in 2005, with the NASA-sponsored Multidisciplinary Flight Dynamics Laboratory at California State University, Los Angeles. That led to a first successful flight in August 25, 2006.

Horizon plans to deliver high performance fuel cells to at least another three UAV development programs this year.

Said Horizon President and CEO George Gu, "We are confident that record-breaking 15 to 30 hour flight times are now within reach for small UAVs, which would offer new and disruptive possibilities in the aviation industry."

Globally, aviation accounts for approximately 4 to 9

 percent of the climate change impact of human activity, and it is also the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Success in small-size aircraft applications such as UAVs opens new opportunities for using zero emissions fuel cell technology in general aviation.

Fuel cells can be used to support propulsion power, as well as on-board auxiliary power for lighting, video screens, and other passenger comforts. Today, small UAVs designed for environmental monitoring, surveillance, and border patrol missions are a fast-growing segment of the aerospace sector.

In recent months, Horizon started bringing fuel cell technology to the general public with the launch of the H-racer, the world's first consumer fuel cell product, awarded Best Inventions of 2006 by Time Magazine, and named one of the 11 coolest products of 2007 by Business 2.0.

FMI: www.dlr.de/en/desktopdefault.aspx, www.horizonfuelcell.com, www.calstatela.edu/centers/mfdclab/mfdclab.htm 

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