By Alton K. Marsh
A research affiliate of Boeing in Spain has test flown a Diamond Dimona motorglider using only a fuel cell, like those used by space vehicles to generate electricity for many years, and a lithium-ion battery.
This goal took some seven years to reach. Both the battery and fuel cell were used for takeoff and landing, but once at altitude the aircraft was flown 20 minutes in level flight using only the fuel cell. The speed of the motorized glider during that time was 54 knots TAS.
No, this doesn’t mean you’ll be flying an electric airplane in the distant future. But the technology could be used to power unmanned aerial vehicles. Having achieved its goal, the program has ended and no further flights are planned, but the research goes on.
April 7, 2008