Boeing has flown the first manned airplane powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The plane was engineered at Boeing Research & Technology Europe in Madrid, Spain with help from industry partners in Austria, France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the U.S. The plane is a two-seat Demona motor glider with a 53-ft wingspan. Diamond Aircraft Industries of Austria built the plane to include a proton exchange membrane fuel cell/lithium-ion battery hybrid system that powers an electric motor coupled with a conventional propeller.
During three test flights in February and March, the airplane climbed to an altitude of 3,300 ft. After reaching cruising altitude and disconnecting the batteries, the pilot flew straight and level at a cruising speed of 62 mph for 20 minutes on power solely provided by the fuel cells. Boeing sees the potential to use fuel cell power for small manned and unmanned air vehicles.
What should be the perception of a product’s real-world performance with regard to the published spec sheet? While it is easy to assume that the product will operate according to spec, what variables should be considered, and is that a designer obligation or a customer responsibility? Or both?
Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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