This is being reported as the world’s first mini RC fuel cell helicopter to take flight, but that is debatable since in June 2008 I had previously talked about the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin, Germany creating an unmanned remote control mini helicopter powered by fuel cell.
But, nonetheless, the United Technologies Corporation (UTC) mini helicopter did take flight recently and performed better than expected. Now, I have talked about UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) which are basic fixed wing remote control airplanes powered by fuel cell many times over the past several years.
What makes RC hydrogen fuel cell helicopters unique is that they require more power for lift and maneuvering than do fixed wing aircraft. The mini FC helicopter was created by the United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) where they took a helicopter that had previously run on lithium ion batters and swapped these out with a compressed hydrogen tank plus fuel cell (see the video on this same page).
The hydrogen tank was rated at 4,200 psi, the fuel cell at 1.75 kW and the mini helicopter is capable of carrying a 5 lb. payload. With a longer range and the capability of spending more time in the air, this would make such as aircraft ideal for military surveillance or police surveillance keeping friendly personal out of harms way while keeping track of enemy soldiers or criminals.
Like I had stated before this mini FC helicopter may also one day make it into the hobby marketplace just like battery operated versions that have already penetrated this market. The exception is that the fuel cell version will fly longer, at higher altitudes and with more payload than is possible with a traditional battery powered mini helicopter.