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Power The Military Transportation

Global Observer's First Hydrogen-Powered Flight 34

Posted by timothy
from the oh-the-non-humanity dept.
cylonlover writes "Following on from a successful maiden flight under battery power in 2010, AeroVironment's high altitude, long endurance (HALE) Global Observer unmanned aircraft has now taken to the skies using hydrogen-fueled propulsion. The aircraft reached an altitude of 5,000 feet during the four hour flight on January 11 at Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) in California. Both the endurance and the altitude of the system will be expanded in further test flights in order to achieve the planned operational altitude of 55,000 to 65,000 feet."
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Global Observer's First Hydrogen-Powered Flight

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  • Re:Polluting (Score:4, Informative)

    by Neil Boekend (1854906) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @04:10AM (#34924972)
    yes, but releasing water AND NOx AND CO2 (which the current planes do) is even worse.
  • by synthesizerpatel (1210598) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @04:11AM (#34924982)

    aircraft in the 1930's.... ...also seems like it didn't end well for some of them.

    I hate to put on the Internet Professor hat, but.. Hindenberg wasn't propelled by hydrogen, it was used for it's lighter than air qualities and was propelled by diesel engines.

    The problems it had were probably a combination of multiple elements of its construction, not just the hydrogen. Kinda different situations.

    I get that you're trying to make a joke but.. funny things are based in truth, hilarious things are true.

  • Re:Why hydrogen? (Score:4, Informative)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @02:32PM (#34930172) Journal

    Woops. I somehow thought khallow's post and arisvega's post were from the same person.

    Sorry guys.

    Arisvega - energy density is important for aircraft because it needs to weigh as little as possible. Batteries have about the worst energy/weight ratios you can find.

    Khallow - AeroVironment doing diesel is about as likely as the NRA lobbying to ban guns.

  • Re:Why hydrogen? (Score:4, Informative)

    by locallyunscene (1000523) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @04:29PM (#34931862)

    Because hydrogen as a fuel does not inherently pollute nor is it inherently carbon positive. It has a lower potential energy than most forms of petroleum so the fact that they were able to make a plane that flies 4 hours on a tank of fuel is important.

    The only problem with that statement is there is no such thing as "hydrogen fuel".

    I said "hydrogen as a fuel" and not "hydrogen fuel" to avoid silly hecklers like you, but it really doesn't matter because "hydrogen fuel" is an accurate statement anyway. Here's the definition of "fuel" since you seem to be confused: Fuel is any material that stores energy that can later be extracted to perform mechanical work in a controlled manner.

    Hydrogen is non-polluting only if you ignore all the processing that goes into producing the hydrogen. It's like using a 2-stroke gasoline generator to charge up your electric car, and then declaring it a non-polluting vehicle. The hydrogen has to come from somewhere...and it's not just buried in the ground like petroleum, it has to be produced...and that process is at a net energy loss.

    Which is why I used the word "inherently" specifically twice. As you noted later, how much pollution is introduced depends entirely on the method used to create the electricity needed for electrolysis. There's no reason it has to be from a polluting source. A hydroelectric dam, wind farm, solar station, or thermoelectric plant could produce it during off peak hours. There are problems with hydrogen, mostly having to do with the high pressure to store it, but you seem to lack understanding in what the actual limitations are and instead forming circular arguments.

    People who are overly excited about the "hydrogen economy" are woefully underinformed on things like the laws of thermodynamics. Hydrogen is never going to be a efficiency gain, it can't be. It can be a practical energy STORAGE medium, but it's going to require a cheap/nearly unlimited energy source to start with...like nuclear power. But of course, once you have cheap plentiful electricity, the hydrogen doesn't make much sense.

    You've become absurd in your rant. You correctly call it a storage medium (that's all fuels are really) and then go on to say if we had cheap and "clean" nuclear power we wouldn't need a storage medium anymore. Do you expect planes and cars to have small nuclear power plants in them? This is exactly why hydrogen as a fuel is important. You don't have to go mining for dangerous heavy metals to put in batteries or pollute with fossil fuels to get the required energy density.

    And of course it's not "efficient", we don't have a good "efficient" way for producing durable (as in the economic sense) energy yet. That's why this is important research. We can dig fossil fuels out of the ground, but it's not like we can actually produce fossil fuels for an "efficiency gain".

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