November 23, 2009
UTRC pioneers fuel cell-powered rotorcraft flight

EAST HARTFORD, Conn., Nov. 23, 2009 - United Technologies Research Center (UTRC), the central research and innovation arm of United Technologies Corporation (NYSE:UTX), achieved first flight of a hydrogen/air fuel cell-powered rotorcraft. The successful technology demonstration was accomplished using a remote-controlled electric helicopter model modified to incorporate a custom Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell power plant.

"Achieving vertical flight represents a key milestone in fuel cell-powered flight as the power density requirements are much greater than for fixed wing aircraft," said Dr. David Parekh, Vice President, Research, and UTRC Director. "In addition, this environmentally friendly power system produces zero pollution, zero emissions of greenhouse gases and operates with very low noise."

The pioneering flight using a high power-density PEM fuel cell took place on Oct. 11, 2009, at 10:30 a.m., on the East Hartford campus of UTRC. The remote-controlled helicopter originally designed to run on batteries had a rotor diameter of 2 meters and a takeoff weight of 10 kg. The duration of the fuel cell powered flight was approximately 20 minutes. The team plans to demonstrate longer flight durations in the future.

Additional detail:

  • The power plant is a PEM fuel cell prototype developed by UTRC and based on UTC Power proprietary fuel cell technology
  • A 4200 psi hydrogen source and air were used
  • Controls, power electronics and telemetry were implemented by UTRC
  • Maximum output power was 1.75 kW
  • System power density exceeded 500 W/kg
  • Self sustained system, with the power plant automatically started with hydrogen supply and no additional batteries
  • 5 lb. payload capable

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) delivers the world's most advanced technologies, innovative thinking and disciplined research to the businesses of United Technologies Corp. Founded in 1929, UTRC is located in East Hartford, Connecticut (U.S.) and also operates a research and development center in Shanghai, China.

United Technologies Corporation (UTC) is a diversified company whose products include Carrier heating and air conditioning, Hamilton Sundstrand aerospace systems and industrial products, Otis elevators and escalators, Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines, Sikorsky helicopters, UTC Fire & Security systems and UTC Power fuel cells.

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