A two-seater Dimona glider plane modified by Boeing is the first manned aircraft to fly powered solely by hydrogen fuel cells and batteries, Boeing announced today.
The plane climbed to 3,300 ft with the help of batteries and then cruised at 62 mph for about 20 minutes on the fuel cells, officials said. Three flights took place south of Madrid in February and March.
A fuel cell converts hydrogen into electricity and heat without polluting the environment. The only exhaust is water, according to Boeing.
The plane, built on the glider frame, has a wingspan of 53.5 ft and has been in development since 2003 by Boeing Research & Technology Europe, part of the Boeing Phantom Works advanced R&D unit, and other industry partners from around the globe. It was modified to include a PEM fuel cell/lithium ion battery hybrid system to power an electric motor and propeller, according to a press release issued by Boeing.
“Boeing is actively working to develop new technologies for environmentally progressive aerospace products,” Francisco Escarti, BR&TE’s managing director, said in the release. “We are proud of our pioneering work during the past five years on the Fuel Cell Demonstrator Airplane project.”
According to Boeing, solid oxide fuel cells could be used in the future as auxiliary power for commercial planes, but researchers do not believe they will ever provide their primary power. “The company will continue to investigate their potential, as well as other sustainable alternative fuel and energy sources that improve environmental performance,” the release states.
“It is a tangible example of how we are exploring future leaps in environmental performance, as well as a credit to the talents and innovative spirit of our team,” Escarti said in the release.