Aerospace engineers in Germany are developing what may well be one of the world’s longest range renewable fuel source flying planes, powered by hydrogen fuel cells and capable of going over 3,700 miles and staying aloft for around 50 hours. It is called the Antares H3 and it is being designed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) in cooperation with Lange Research Aircraft GmbH.
The Antares 3 is said to actually be a higher-performance successor of the Antares DLR-H2, the world’s first piloted aircraft capable of performing a complete flight powered by fuel cells alone. It is also based upon the Antares 20E, which is a self-launching motorized glider with battery-powered electrical propulsion. The DLR-H2, during tests, flew about 435 miles over a maximum of five hours, so the H3 will be going a lot further and longer then its sibling. The project to build this aircraft began this month, with the first flight planned for sometime next year.
The H3 will have a wingspan of around 75 feet and will be able to carry payloads up to 440 pounds. It will use four external pods to house the fuel cells and fuel. Once optimized, it is believed the H3 will be able to fly both piloted and, at a later point in the development, unmanned flights. In the case of the latter, it could perform numerous tasks such as Earth observation and surveying.
“The fuel-cell powered Antares flies carbon dioxide-neutral, and emits significantly less noise than other comparable motorized gliders,” said Dr Josef Kallo, Head of Electrochemical Systems at DLR’s Institute of Technical Thermodynamics (Institut für Technische Thermodynamik), in a statement. “It represents a new milestone in the area of efficient, emission-free energy transformation.”