Student team sets fuel-cell powered flight record

UM SolarBubbles team with "Endurance"

November 24, 2008 Fuel-cell manufacturer Adaptive Materials and students from the University of Michigan have teamed up to set a new world record for the longest fuel-cell-powered flight of a radio-controlled aerial vehicle. The flight of 10 hours, 15 minutes and four seconds beats the previous mark of just over nine hours set by AeroVironment's Puma UAV earlier this year.

Named Endurance, the eight-foot wingspan plane flew over 99 miles in a holding pattern on October 30 and could have flown for five more hours if it was built to fly at night.

The student "SolarBubbles" team built the airframe and Adaptive Materials built the propane-powered solid oxide fuel cell. Plans are now underway to complete a 20-hour test flight.

"It's critical for unmanned aerial vehicles to have extended flight times to provide the functionality needed for military missions," said Michelle Crumm, chief business officer at Adaptive Materials. "The flight time achieved with the SolarBubbles team surpassed any of Adaptive Materials’ previous work with aerial vehicles and shows that we’re just scratching the surface for what’s possible with a lightweight, reliable fuel cell."

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