A hydrogen fuel cell is a device that converts hydrogen gas & air into electricity and water. Although these devices are much lower power density than batteries, they can pump out that power for many hours, depending on the amount of fuel you are storing.

At Loughborough University UK, we are working on a fuel cell and LiPo hybrid, to give you the oompf for take off (and go-arounds!) and the long endurance for cruise and loiter.
The base aircraft is the Skywalker X8, modified to carry considerably more weight than it is designed for (currently 4.5kg all up, and pushing towards 6kg with more testing).
This video briefly explains the platform setup, shows a video using ArduPilot's autonomous take-off, and concludes with a short 4.5kg flight.
In the coming weeks look forward to videos of the payload approaching 6kg, and the fuel cell being connected properly and providing some of the power!

Views: 13933

Comment by johnkowalsky on April 23, 2013 at 1:35pm

why don't you use methanol based fuel cells ? power density of methanol is much higher and you don't need high pressure vessels

Comment by Simon Howroyd on April 23, 2013 at 1:38pm
Yes certainly. My aim is to get a platform with plenty of payload so I can test as many types as possible. PEM, DMFC, SOFC etc.
Comment by Crashpilot1000 on April 23, 2013 at 2:46pm

Great!! A fuel cell is a very good idea. So the combo: fuel(whatever) + fuelcell + emotor is more efficient than a normal rc combustion engine - even with the higher weight that will reduce the benefit? Interesting.

Keep it coming!

Cheers Kraut Rob

P.s: If you are going for alcohol, take ethanol :) :)

Comment by MarcS on April 23, 2013 at 2:50pm


the feasibility of a (purely) fuel cell powered plane was demonstrated in 2007: http://www.smartfish.ch/index.cfm/fuseaction/show/path/1-129.htm

I just question their concept of using an inefficient drive (1kW ducted fan...) and inefficient airframe.

With another concept this could have been a long endurance craft.

I´m wondering why we did not see more in the meantime??

Comment by Andrew Tridgell on April 23, 2013 at 5:53pm

Great stuff Simon!

Please let me know if there are any mods to ArduPlane that would be useful for your work. I have an X8 myself, and I've been interested in using a fuel cell for a while.

Cheers, Tridge

Comment by Rigel on April 24, 2013 at 4:57am

Horizon has done quite a bit of work on UAV fuel cells.  You can check them out here: http://www.hes.sg/

They also sell kits...but boy are they expensive!

Have you found a cheaper alternative?

Comment by Austin H on April 24, 2013 at 2:45pm

MarcS 23 R ...inefficient airframe.... 

Cruise ML/D: 
SAX-40: 20.1 
Boeing PW BWB ML/D : 17-18
Boeing 777 ML/D : 17.0

ML/D = (Mach number) X (Lift) ÷ (Drag)



it appears the blended wing is very efficient 

Comment by MarcS on April 24, 2013 at 10:51pm

Austin, I´m referring to the airframe in the link I posted about the flight in 2007...

Nothing about the one of the starter of this post.

Blended winds can be effecient, but are not automatically...

Comment by Simon Howroyd on April 25, 2013 at 1:36am

Hi all, thanks for the input. This is quite an exciting project for me!

A ducted fan typically isn't too efficient, but the Hyfish wasn't designed to be; it was a high speed fuel cell demonstrator. 

Typically for small aircraft flying wings are often the best choice as you get a lot of room internally for all your kit right on the CoG; with a lengthy fuselage & components spread out you sacrifice a lot of pitch authority due to the increased inertia. Flying wings are harder to design but this is COTS so didn't concern me too much! The are normally more aerodynamically efficient since you do not need a tailplane creating downforce, and all the structure to support it.

It is always a trade off between what is numerically the "best" solution, and what is the "engineering compromise." So for this being a heavy chuck launch you need a massive wing area and a very stiff wing. Also the ground effect on landing is quite beneficial so it doesn't shred itself to bits.

This is all interesting stuff though, thanks for your input. I shall keep you all posted on my progress and please feel free to ask questions, queries & criticise!

Comment by Wolfgang Luck on April 26, 2013 at 11:29am

Hi Simon

A very interesting project indeed.

I have had a few bad launches on a too heavy X8 aircraft and bust some electronics as a result of it. I have tried to access your youtube cast to get the info on your motor and ESC, but unfortunately the cast was not available. Could you tell me the specification of the motor and ESC?

Where did you get the fuel cells from?

With kind regards



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