Unorthodox fuel puts Firebird in class of its own

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Mark Hannant

Hydrogen peroxide is usually associated with adolescents and bleached hair. For Intora Firebird it has a much more significant, application.

The Southend, UK-based manufacturer has unveiled three versions of its hydrogen peroxide-fuelled Intora Firebird at the show's static display. Unfortunately, while it is the novel fuel that makes this machine interesting, it is also the reason why it won't be flying here.

Intor-Firebird director Brian Nalborough explains: "We would have loved to have given a demonstration. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) version literally only came out of the factory on Friday - so it would have been great to be able to show something so new.

"The problem is with the fuel type and the airfield doesn't have clearance to use hydrogen peroxide as a fuel."

Also launched at the show are a single-seater and twin-seater.

The Intora Firebird does not have a conventional engine. Instead it is powered by high grade hydrogen peroxide which propels small jets in the rotor blade tips. A catalyst converts the hydrogen peroxide into super-heated steam and oxygen.

Amazingly, this process creates a thrust as powerful as an 100kg (75kw) engine, says the company. Climbing at a rate of 650m/min and with a maximum speed of 86kt (160cm/h), the basic configuration with two tanks of fuel onboard can fly for 30min.

The applications for the craft are varied, says Nalborough. "It is ideal for fast reaction military units, for surveillance activities, commercial film making and forest fire detection. It is incredibly simple to use - someone who's never flown a helicopter could be proficient in this in half an hour."

The UAV version can be modified to carry a variety of payloads including air defence missiles and surveillance systems.