AeroVironment has begun flight testing its Hornet fuel cell-powered micro air vehicle. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) says the 380mm (15in)-span radio-controlled flying wing is the first air vehicle to fly entirely on fuel-cell power.

DARPA says fuel-cell power offers the potential for long-endurance flight. The 0.17kg (0.37lb) Hornet is being developed under the agency's synthetic multifunctional materials programme and the fuel cell, which produces an average 10W of power, also acts as the wing structural member.

Hydrogen is stored on the vehicle in dry pellets and released when combined with water, also carried on board. The hydrogen reacts with oxygen collected from the airflow over the wing to produce electricity. The fuel cell includes a metal mesh that forms the wing substructure.

The Hornet is manually flown from the ground, with a radio channel to modulate hydrogen release. The next Hornet version may include a simple autopilot and a video camera payload.

Source: Flight International