A fuel-cell-powered aircraft set a world record by staying aloft for a whopping 23 hours and 17 minutes on just a single load.
In fact, the unmanned aircraft broke the previous record by double. Of course, the plane was built by the Naval Research Laboratory and not by students from the University of Michigan. Still, those students kept their plane in air for over 10 hours–impressive!
Of course their plane was only $2,500. I am guessing the Navy-built one cost us a whole lot more.
Called the Ion Tiger, the aircraft weighs just 37 pounds and has .75 horsepower (550-Watt). Fact is, the hydrogen-powered motor proved four-times more efficient than comparable combustion engines and seven-times more powerful similarly sized battery. It can carry a 5 lb payload.
NRL’s Karen Swider-Lyons, “the long endurance flight was made possible by the team’s research on high power, efficient fuel cell systems, lightweight hydrogen-gas storage tanks, improved thermal management, and the effective integration of these systems.”
On one hand, when everyone else was off watching Laugh-in, DARPA goes and invents the Internet. But on the other hand, we have to watch those annoying military propaganda videos starring Kid Rock.
But I won’t be the first person to jump behind military tech since most UAV breakthroughs are about upgraded weapons. In fact, a big part of NRL’s focus is to ensure that next-gen drones are as efficient as they are deadly.
“The Ion Tiger successfully demonstrates ONR’s vision to show how efficient, clean technology can be used to improve the warfighter’s capabilities,” comments ONR’s (Office of Naval Research) Michele Anderson.
The next mark NRL hopes to hit is a 36 hour flight–it’s so they can kill ya extra long!
UPDATE: This is a world record for a fuel-cell powered flight. My apologies for the confusion.