Michigan Students Set World Record for Longest Flight by Fuel Cell Powered Plane


A group of students from the University of Michigan have set a new world record for the longest flight ever by a fuel-cell powered plane.

Late last month the team, known as SolarBubbles, flew the $2,500 plane (video) around a field in Milan, Michigan for a total of 10 hours, 15 minutes and 4 seconds – smashing the previous 9 hour record held by a Californian engineering company.

The plane, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) named Endurance, is the result of six months of work by the group of aerospace engineering undergraduates. UAVs are commonly used by the miltary for tasks such as mapping, testing chemicals or delivering medical supplies in inhospitable terrain.

The fuel cells for the project were supplied by Michigan company Adaptive Materials Inc. According to Nick Schoeps, a University of Michigan alumni who now works at the company, “We have some other military contracts we’re testing it with, but we thought this would be a great opportunity to collaborate with the university and bring some students into the mix and see what we can accomplish.”

Schoeps figures UAVs are ideal for testing fuel cells since, following the flight, engineers have a clear idea of how the cells worked. The team’s ultimate goal is to fly a fuel cell powered plane for a full 24 hours, something they hope to achieve during spring next year.

Image Credit – SolarBubbles

Andrew Williams

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.