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Fuel Cell Powered Aircraft Sets New Record

Globally, aviation accounts for approximately 4 to 9 % of the climate change impact of human activity, and it is also the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. One technology that offers the possibility of reducing the environmental impact of the aviation industry is emerging fuel cell technology. Fuel cells are quiet and clean electrical power sources and have low thermal signature. Such devices can be used for primary or auxiliary power generation in centralized or distributed electrical configurations.

Starting small, Horizon identified the nearest term commercial opportunity for its fuel cell systems to reside in small unmanned aircraft currently using electrical propulsion systems, where a performance advantage exists already today. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) also happen to be the fastest growing segment of the aerospace industry today, a market estimated by the Teal Group to be worth $54 billion over the next 10 years.

Small UAVs are one of the most demanding applications for emerging hydrogen fuel cell power technologies due to the constraints of size, weight and aerodynamics. Nevertheless, Horizon's leading technology capability in this field enables the design of extremely high power density PEM fuel cell systems that can power these small aircraft for longer distances than today's available battery technologies.

Horizon started its UAV activity in 2005, and has already powered the flight of three different aircraft designs since. Horizon's technology continues to make history as speed, distance and endurance records continue to be broken using conventional hydrogen storage technologies such as pressurized H2 cylinders.

Our1st demonstration flight took place in August 2006 east of Los Angeles, where NASA and US Air Force sponsored Multidisciplinary Flight Dynamics Lab at Calstate L.A flew a first Horizon-powered hydrogen fuel cell plane, as a first step into this pioneering field. This first successful flight has led to some of today¡¯s record-breaking attempts in the US with new specially-designed frame designs.

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