Fuel cell lets HyFish fly

DLR develops environmentally friendly aircraft propulsion

HyFish in the SmartFish / DLR model
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HyFish is the name of a futuristic aircraft designed by scientists of the Swiss company SmartFish. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) will drive the aircraft in the future with a fuel cell. To do this, the researchers are developing a highly efficient and lightweight system that will be integrated into the aircraft. A first test flight is already planned for mid-2006.

At the moment, the aircraft is still driven by a battery with its span of about 1.5 meters. It has already completed its first, short test flights. By a fuel cell drive, however, the aircraft should be able to remain in the air for much longer and reach speeds of 200 to 300 kilometers per hour at an altitude of 7, 000 meters. According to the scientists at the DLR Institute of Technical Thermodynamics in Stuttgart, the application of fuel cells could therefore be of interest for versatile UAVs as well as for high-altitude atmospheric research.

First, the researchers will replace the battery of the flight test vehicle with a fuel cell system. The complete flying machine should eventually reach a maximum of five kilograms total weight and deliver one kilowatt of power on this small size. A challenge for the DLR researchers, who can demonstrate for the first time the performance of their fuel cell system in such a demanding application.

In addition to hydrogen and pure oxygen on board

In addition to the required hydrogen, the aircraft should also carry pure oxygen, which supplies the fuel cell with sufficient air at high altitudes and thus saves a complex compressor. For this purpose, both a hydrogen and an oxygen tank are integrated into the aircraft.

Hydrogen is also the name of the Hyfish, in which the designers have based on the aerodynamic qualities of a fish. The fuel cell system finally supplies a so-called impeller drive, ie a propeller, with energy. For these tasks, the operating behavior of the aircraft is ideally matched to the available volume and the usable weight. Thus, the project also provides new insights into lightweight construction and the compact design of fuel cell systems. display

However, until the aircraft can take off with the environmentally friendly technology, extensive development work still needs to be done. The scientists at the DLR Institute of Technical Thermodynamics will first introduce a reliable running system. The integration into the aircraft then takes place together with the designers of the Swiss partner SmartFish.

(DLR, 21.10.2005 - DLO)