VIDEO: Zero emissions aircraft makes first flight

The world’s first piloted aircraft capable of taking to the air using only power from fuel

cells has flown, producing zero carbon dioxide emissions during the landmark mission.

Click here to watch the video. 


The Antares DLR-H2 – developed by the German Aerospace Centre DLR together with Lange

Aviation, BASF Fuel Cells and Denmark’s Serenergy – has a range of 750 kilometres (465

miles) and can fly for five hours at maximum flying speeds of approximately 170 kilometres per hour.

DLR says it has improved fuel cell performance capabilities and efficiency to such an

extent that the motor glider can take off using fuel cell power alone.

“This enables us to demonstrate the true potential of this technology,” said DLR’s Johann-Dietrich W├Ârner who concedes however that fuel cell use constitutes a more likely alternative to existing onboard energy systems than main propulsion alternatives.

The system uses hydrogen as its fuel which is converted into electrical energy in a direct, electrochemical reaction with oxygen in the ambient air, without any combustion occurring and producing only water.

To accommodate the fuel cell and the hydrogen supply, two additional external load carriers weighing 100 kgs were slung under the specially reinforced wings whose aeroelastic properties had to be reconfigured to safeguard flight stability.

The fuel cell system used to power the Antares delivers up to 25 kilowatts of electrical power although operates at an efficiency level of approximately 52 percent when the aircraft is flying in a straight line, which requires around ten kilowatts of power.

The total efficiency of the drive system from tank to powertrain, including the propeller, is around  44 percent, making it about twice as efficient as conventional propulsion technologies based on combustion processes.

Another innovation is the way its fuel cell is connected to the main electric motor that powers the aircraft. Developed jointly with Lange Aviation and the College of Advanced Technology in Berne/Biel, it is capable of taking in and controlling voltages from 188 to 400 V increasing efficiency, cost and, reliability.

The Antares DLR-H2 will be based at Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg where, over the next `three years, it will be acting as a flying test platform for the fuel cell test activities of DLR as part of its Fuel Cell Labs project.


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7 Responses to VIDEO: Zero emissions aircraft makes first flight

  1. sc July 9, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    And where did the Hydrogen come from? It’s not zero emissions until hydrogen can be produced on a large scale without the use of fossil fuels.

  2. Aimee Turner July 9, 2009 at 4:44 pm #

    That’s why I wrote “producing zero carbon dioxide emissions during the landmark mission”. Doh!

  3. rod elliot July 17, 2009 at 1:22 pm #


    The ‘duh’ is on you, madam, because the mission has to include the production of the fuel in the first place. If not, then my glider was zero emission (minus the tug) long before this contraption took to the air.

    Your piece is therefore one in a long line of either disingenuous reporting or deliberate lies, that purport to show that hydrogen is the ‘FUEL OF THE FUTURE’. Unfortunately, hydrogen is not a fuel, it is a ‘battery’ (it has to be created). In addition, it is far less efficient than a conventional battery.

    By my calculation, total fuel efficiencies (from oil well to motion) are:

    Engine type Efficiency
    Petrol 22%
    Diesel 33%
    Battery 31%
    Hydrogen 12%

    Let’s not subscribe to the usual lies of the Green Agenda, shall we.


  4. Mike July 18, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

    I agree entirely with the first and third comments made. Hydrogen is not more than an energy fuel – it is not a carbon free energy “source”. It is very reasssuring to see that other readers realize this and that hydrogen fuel is not “the answer” to the global warming problem. Unfortunately too many writers do not discern this fact and simply repeat the “hydrogen hype” to those who do not question it.

    To dismiss an intelligent, rational reader comment with an immature “doh!” reply shows that the writer does not have the maturity to value what is being explained here so clearly. It’s weak journalism to call it “zero emissions” of CO2 just because the fuel used during the mission released none, when the making of the H2 fuel probably released a lot of CO2 unless you know as a fact it was only solar or wind power sourced, soley for this mission. Otherwise it is likely an ecologically inefficient fossil carbon to H2 conversion.

    “Thank you” to FlightGlobal’s tech savvy readers. I think the article should be edited to tell the whole story in the full “carbon footprint” context.

  5. Little Plane July 18, 2009 at 3:15 pm #

    In the end, is there anything that is totally zero emissions form drawing board (or CAD) to flying? I do not think so. At least this one does not produce CO2 like other sources do, only plain H20. So, let’s be positive about this tremendous achievment and give it a chance. It may motivate our fellow automotive engineers to follow the same path and reduce the largest source of contamination on earth: the automobile internal combustion engine.

  6. Sebastien August 2, 2009 at 3:03 pm #

    I believe the title is appropriate. I don’t think the writer is misleading. I believe that some commentators here are a bit confused. At this point, Unless you are talking about water being your source of fuel, there’s nothing else that doesn’t require stages of production that is zero emission. Source of fuel requires stages, from harness the fuel, transport it, refined it and the final product.
    What creates more Carbon is the end user of fuel which is the final stage. And the engines nowadays just burn fuel at an alarming rate.
    Now if you can make an engine that doesn’t use fuel as source of power, that makes that engine zero emission. Next, you’ll have to work your self backwards to see how you going to deliver that fuel with zero emission. But for that to happen, your engine run by harness the sun’s power.

  7. 2 Day Diet August 8, 2013 at 5:46 am #

    VIDEO: Zero emissions aircraft makes first flight | Future Proof

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