German aerospace technology centre DLR showed off a range of advanced projects - but none so "blue sky" as the Antares DLR-H2 motor glider, with its world-first capability to take off using only the power from its hydrogen fuel cell.
DLR technical team member Martin Saballus calls Antares a "flying test laboratory" for high-efficiency, zero-emission energy conversion. From hydrogen stored in the pod under the right wing and oxygen from the ambient air, the fuel cell in the other pod generates a maximum 24kW.
Maximum power output is sufficient to get the craft off the ground, but it uses much less in cruise. Saballus says one key to success with this power system is to overcome the natural effect of power loss that is expected at altitude, where the fuel cell will get less oxygen in reduced air pressure. Flights so far have achieved only 3,000ft (915m), so that power-drop has not been observed yet, but further tests will be aiming for higher altitudes, he says.
The project has been running for several years, with another iteration of the craft likely to be built based on information being gleaned from the current flight programme.